Speed Reads


Mississippi congressman calls Justice Clarence Thomas an 'Uncle Tom'


On Sunday, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called in to a New Nation of Islam radio program to talk about racism in the government. He had some thoughts on the topic.

The 11-term congressman argued that racism is behind much of the GOP's strong opposition to and "disrespect" for President Obama, specifically citing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's early pledge to oppose anything Obama proposed ("Now if that's not a racist statement I don't know what is"). Then Thompson called Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an "Uncle Tom," adding that "it's almost to the point saying this man doesn't like black people, he doesn't like being black."

Even the New Nation of Islam host, who calls himself the Son of Man, was taken aback by the "Uncle Tom" reference. But Thompson stood by the remark in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Wednesday — not many members of Congress or the Washington press corps listen to New Nation of Islam radio, so it took a few days for BuzzFeed to pick up the quotes and for everyone to get upset.

Thompson explained to Bash that every decision Thomas has signed on to at the court has "been adverse to the minority community, and the people I represent have a real issue with an African American not being sensible to those issues." When Bash asked if "Uncle Tom" isn't "a racially charged term," Thompson responded: "For some it is, but to others it's the truth." Here's Thompson's interview with Bash:

Thompson further argued that he can call someone an "Uncle Tom" because he's black. I suspect that theory will quickly be put to the test in Washington and in his Jackson-based district — the only majority-black district in Mississippi (Thompson is the only Democrat in Mississippi's congressional delegation). You can listen to Thompson's factually questionable thoughts on Republican racism, via BuzzFeed, or hear his "Uncle Tom" remarks below. --Peter Weber