For some members of Congress in attendance at Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing about creating a commission on reparations, the hearing was an opportunity to ask questions about reparations.
For Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, it was an opportunity to drudge up the Democratic Party’s racist past and cast the Republicans as blameless in any way for the way the country continues to oppress black Americans.
Gohmert began his time by thanking actor and activist Danny Glover—who testified before the committee about the issue—for his movies, then pivoted to discussing... the death penalty. He brought up the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr., a black man, in Jasper, TX, who was violently killed by white supremacists. The representative blabbered on about how he supports the death penalty and would even support a law allowing families to “choose” how the death penalty is carried out before arguing the sentences handed down to Byrd’s killers show the death penalty isn’t racist.
“What does this have anything to do with reparations?” you may ask. Nothing, nor did his next point, for which Gohmert used the majority of his time to wax on about.
In what must have been planned as another shining GOTCHA! moment, the Texas representative pulled out sheets of paper he printed from the internet, one from the DNC website about the Democratic Party’s history AND another from the Wall Street Journal—an article about the “The Democrats’ Missing History,” penned in 2008 by, LOL, Nazi-salute slinger Jeffrey Lord.
After reading from the printouts about slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow—all of which he blamed on the Democrats—he concluded, “It is important that we know our history, and we not punish people today for the sins of their predecessors,” an argument that echoed Mitch McConnell.
“You lie,” someone in the audience shouted at Gohmert.
“I just stated all facts and, again, we have people who are denying history,” Gohmert continued.
Gohmert, unsurprisingly, wasted more of his time by asking one of the witnesses, former NFL player Burgess Owens (who testified against reparations and said some extremely troubling things about “bootstraps” and “baby mamas” and “open borders”), if his great grandfather would have thought the Republican Party was racist.
Today, the House had an opportunity to have a constructive discussion about slavery, racism, and reparations. Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates told the committee why bullshit excuses like Gohmert’s and McConnell’s hold no weight. Instead, Gohmert treated the hearing like a joke. Though from him, I can’t say I expected anything better.