Missouri Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver called Roseanne Barr’s racial tweet about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett “a burning cross in the yard.”
Cleaver, who represents Kansas City and portions of western Missouri, was a guest Tuesday on MSNBC’s Hardball. He said there was “no confusion” about the statement’s appeal to a segment of the population.
“This was not a dog whistle, this was a burning cross in the yard,” said Cleaver.
In a tweet, Barr referred to Jarrett as the child of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes. The actual Tweet Tuesday morning read, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”
Cleaver called it “really horrible” that Barr would hold people of color in such low regard.
“She probably thought and believed that she would be applauded about what she said,” said Cleaver. “She may have even wanted some applause to come from Washington. And I think in absence of that she may have realized, not that she was wrong, but that she got caught.”
ABC canceled Barr’s latest version of the “Roseanne” show about 11 hours after she tweeted the comment. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the program was the highest-rated and most-watched series of the broadcast season, having beaten other frontrunners “This Is Us” on NBC and CBS’ “Big Bang Theory”.
It was an updated version of the sitcom that originally ran during the 1980’s and 90’s, although the new rendition had been criticized for racially-flavored humor.
Against the background of Barr’s tweet, Cleaver said a major problem in the country with race is people who are unaware of their own bigotry.
“There’s a woman who said that it’s about time we get someone in the White House who looks like a real first lady,” Cleaver said. “Then later in an interview, she said, ‘Well I’m not racist’. I mean, that’s the problem.”
Critics immediately slammed Barr for comparing black people to apes and attempting to delegitimize the Muslim Brotherhood, which is an Islamist political organization.
Barr initially sent out at least two tweets appearing to defend her comments. One read, “ISLAM is not a RACE, lefties. Islam includes EVERY RACE of people,” while the other said, “It’s a joke.” She then expressed regret for her statement.
“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” Barr stated on Twitter. “I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.”
On Hardball, Cleaver said Congressional Republicans have done little to address racial issues since GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan called President Trump’s comments about a Mexican judge “textbook racism”.
“The problem is that if that’s what it is, why in the world are my colleagues in Congress on the Republican side hugging him,” said Cleaver.
The former Methodist pastor represents Missouri’s 5th Congressional District. He was first elected to the U.S. House in 2004 and last won re-election in 2016. Cleaver started in politics as a city council member in Kansas City in 1979. He became the city’s the first African-American in 1991 and served in the position until 1999.