Back in 1984 the journalist Michael Kinsley wrote that a Washington “gaffe” occurs when a politician accidentally tells the truth. We had an example of that in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, this week.
KFVS in Missouri reported on a city councilman named Peter Tinsley posting “what some call racist photos” on his Facebook page last year. Those photos, as Talking Points Memo shows, include a doctored image of President Barack Obama as an African witch doctor and another referring to him as “a lyin’ African.” So yeah, they were racist.
Once exposed, Tinsley told a council session: “I apologize from the bottom of my heart. . . . At one time, I was a very active Republican, very opposed to Obama.”
Local Republicans led by an organizer named Eddy Justice quickly reacted to that by insisting that “Tinsley's posts are not representative of the party” even though he is, in fact, an elected representative of the party.
Tinsley then offered another apology for his Facebook habit: “I want people to know that I am very remorseful for it. It was inappropriate. I believe I got caught up in an emotional moment of sharing jokes.” Sharing jokes with whom? Tinsley didn’t say. But we can presume that the Facebook friends of “a very active Republican” include a lot of other local Republicans. Nonetheless, Tinsley insisted: “Anything that I have said, that I referred to the activity because I was a Republican, that is not true. It’s not an excuse.”
And yet it is a reason. Tinsley was caught up in social circles so infected with OIP Derangement Syndrome that he lost sight of the line between reasoned, face-based, respectful political debate and expressions of simple hostility.
As for Eddy Justice, I’m quite willing to accept that he rejects racist jokes. I suspect that in his years as a Tea Party and Republican organizer he’s seen and heard worse such comments, and I hope he’s always been as quick to object to them. I can’t help but note, however, that Justice’s own Facebook page displays:
- complaints about President Obama taking vacations, even though he’s done so at a rate so far less than President George W. Bush (12 August).
- insinuations about “Remember when First Ladies were actually ladies?” (25 July).
- a claim about the cost of health coverage rising 150%—and Justice is himself an insurance agent who sells health policies, so he should know the truth (6 May).