Minnesota Rep. Ryan Winkler apologizes for 'Uncle Thomas' tweet - KMSP-TV

Rep. Ryan Winkler apologizes for 'Uncle Thomas' tweet

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Minnesota State Rep. Ryan Winkler apologized Tuesday for a Twitter post that referred to Justice Clarence Thomas as "Uncle Thomas" following the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act.

Thomas was part of the 5-4 majority that struck down part of the law which designated which states must have changes to their voting laws approved by the federal government or a federal court.

Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) tweeted "#SCOTUS VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas. Marriage decision may blur Court's backsliding."

Winkler deleted the tweet in the face of criticism. 

Conservative radio host Jack Tomczak, co-host of Twin Cities News Talk and The Late Debate on AM1130 says Winkler is a well-educated, clever guy who couldn't resist the pointing out the irony of Thomas voting for something many feel will only further limit minority voting.  

"What I think is the most offensive part of it isn't what he said.  It's that he assumes because of the color of Clarence Thomas' skin that Clarence Thomas needs to think a certain way.  That's the offensive part," Tomczak said.

Winkler admitted on Twitter he didn't realize Uncle Tom was a racist term. Uncle Tom, from the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin," refers to someone from a low-status group who is overly subservient to authority – a "faithful slave" in the case of the novel.

"I didn't think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas should be even more concerned about racial discrimination than colleagues. But if such a suggestion is offensive, I apologize," he said, in a conglomeration of follow-up posts. "Deleted Tweet causing offense regarding Justice Thomas. I apologize for it, but believe VRA decision does abet racism."

"B.S. -- of course he knows what it means. I know what it means and I didn't go to Harvard," Tomczak said.

Winkler is a fourth-term lawmaker representing District 46A, which covers parts of Golden Valley and St. Louis Park. Winkler graduated with an B.A. in history from Harvard 1998 and J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2001.

Long-time Minneapolis City Council Member and mayoral candidate Don Samuels agrees with Winklers frustration over the Court's ruling, but says, he chose a poor way to express it.

"The Supreme Court did make a mistake in reversing the Voting Rights Act and the tweet was an error and distracting from the conversation that needs to be had," Samuels said.

Samuels says any kind of "Twitter-gate" only draws the focus away from the real issue -- in this case voter rights -- and creates the perfect smokescreen to obscure the disappointment with the Supreme Court's decision.

"People fought hard for these rights, and to reverse it with a stroke of a pen, that is a real tragedy today," he said.

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