The Washington Post

GOP has itself to blame for Thompson ’Kenya’ joke

Some folks just can’t resist blabbering birther nonsense. The latest example occurred yesterday in Wisconsin at a Republican fundraiser. The offender was Jason Thompson, whose father, Tommy Thompson, is the former governor of the Badger State and current candidate for U.S. Senate against Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D).

“We have the opportunity to send President Obama back to Chicago — or Kenya,” the younger Thompson said to applause and laughter. One person off camera can be heard saying, “I’m taking donations for that Kenya trip.”

Now, Tommy Thompson wasn’t even there. But he did issue a statement. “The Governor has addressed this with his son, just like any father would do,” his campaign said. “Jason Thompson said something he should not have, and he apologizes.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke to the gathering about 20 minutes before Thompson’s dumb remark. RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told me that Priebus piggybacked on the former governor’s statement. “I agree with Governor Thompson — the comment was out of line and his son rightfully apologized,” Priebus said.

These apologies wouldn’t be necessary if the grown-ups in the GOP had traded in their winks-and-nods at the racist birther lie for full-throated condemnation of this conspiracy theory. Instead, they were more than happy to stand by as Obama’s citizenship was questioned. Donald Trump, one of Mitt Romney’s vocal backers, is birther in chief.

The birther conspiracy served the GOP well politically in far too many corners of our country. But it was a corrosive lie that sought to undermine the legitimacy of the president of the United States. And because no elder statesmen of the GOP had the courage or the guts to consistently call out the bigots in their party, joking about birth certificates or Kenya remains a guaranteed applause line.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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