(This post has been updated with a third video unearthed by the Fix’s JM Rieger.)
The most emotionally fraught moment during the Michael Cohen hearing had nothing directly to do with President Trump’s former lawyer but was a tense exchange after one lawmaker accused another of engaging in a racist act by bringing a black woman to the hearing “as a prop.”
Though the issue was mostly resolved during the hearing, the aftershocks of it continued Thursday with the resurfacing of three videos from 2012 of Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) making birther comments about President Barack Obama and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) going on CNN to reiterate her belief that Meadows’s actions were insensitive to people of color.
Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, was the last to speak at the end of the marathon Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday. She used her time to criticize Meadows — not by name — for bringing Lynne Patton, a black woman who has worked for the Trump family and now for the White House, to vouch for Trump not being racist.
“And it is insensitive ... the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself,” Tlaib said.
Meadows exploded, appearing almost near tears, as he spoke of his having a niece and nephew of color and his close friendship with Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) as evidence that he’s not racist. Tlaib then clarified her remarks, saying that she wasn’t calling him racist, just his action.
Meadows brought in Patton, who stood silently behind him while he made his remarks, in an attempt to counter Cohen’s testimony that Trump is racist. But having an employee, friend or family member of color does not shield a person from racism or at capitalizing on others’ racism for political gain.
After Meadows’s outrage at Tlaib, Steve Morris of the left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters posted a video to Twitter of Meadows in 2012 standing in front of a Tea Party Express bus and telling voters “2012 is the time we are going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is.”
Two additional videos from that time have seen been unearthed showing Meadows making similar comments about sending Obama “home.”
Now let’s remember where we were in this country in 2012. Obama was running for reelection, and Donald Trump, after toying with the idea of running for president, decided to expend his energy finding Obama’s passport and college records. The year before he’d advanced the birther conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, but rather in Africa. Obama was, of course, born in Hawaii.
That lie, an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president, is what first endeared Trump to a subset of voters who wanted to believe that it was true.
A second video shared on Twitter showed Meadows at a tea party forum suggesting again that Obama’s home is in Africa. Meadows, then a candidate for Congress, spoke to Roll Call and clarified that he believed Obama was an American citizen. According to the Roll Call story, Meadows’s remarks came after a man asked him: “The question I have, if you’re sent to Congress, will you pursue some kind of investigation to find out whether or not this, uh, guy is really a citizen and entitled to those authorities?” Meadows said he would.
On CNN’s “New Day” Thursday morning, Tlaib was shown one of the 2012 clips of Meadows. Asked if she believes him to be a racist, Tlaib said, “Look, I feel like the act was, and that’s up to the American people to decide whether or not he is.”