Talk about ridiculous. The Denver Post’s crack reporter Tim Hoover reports:
Sen. Shawn Mitchell said he was just poking fun at Democrats, not race, when he directed a comment today at Senate President Peter Groff and Sen. Ken Gordon that some lawmakers found insensitive.
Mitchell, a Broomfield Republican who is white, was speaking on a medical malpractice law bill sponsored by Groff, a Denver Democrat and the Senate’s first black president.
Groff and Majority Leader Ken Gordon, who is white, were standing near the podium as Mitchell argued in opposition to the bill. At one point, Mitchell mistakenly addressed Gordon as Groff, prompting him to correct himself and say to Groff, “Excuse me, Mr. President. You all look alike to me.” … Groff said that Mitchell had come and apologized to him. “I didn’t take offense when I heard it (the remark),” said Groff…
Hoover mentions ColoradoPols.com, which had this to say about the incident:
Mitchell Statement to Groff Draws Questions
by: Colorado Pols
Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 11:04:41 AM MST
We’re hearing about an exchange in the Colorado Senate this morning that culminated in supposedly racially charged words from Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell to Senate President Peter Groff, as in, “you all look the same to me.”
Numerous people have confirmed that this exchange took place, but as the first comment below indicates, this could have been said/heard in a different context than it was intended.
Here’s the audio clip of the remark–we think Mitchell was genuinely trying to make a joke, though perhaps one in poor taste. He appears to have confused Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon (happens to be white) with Senate President Peter Groff (happens to be black), and the “joke” was made while correcting himself. Some people who were there seem to think that it was not so innocent, but we’ll let you decide for yourself.
And here is Mitchell’s reply:
What Really Happened
Hey Pols, Shawn Mitchell here. You’re being misled by someone with an agenda. Here’s what happened. During a debate on medical malpractice insurance, I mistakenly attributed a comment by Peter Groff instead to Ken Gordon. Each of them started in instantly with the jokes, along the lines of “I’m taller” or “I’m better looking.” Since one is tall, young, and black, and the other is short, middle-aged plus, and white, I made a quick jab at absurd humor and said, “Well they all look alike to me,” referring to Democratic leadership. In case your informant is unaware, Groff is Senate President and Gordon is Majority Leader. So, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you can chill the scandal siren.
Here are pictures of Senators Groff and Gordon, taken from their official web pages:
Quite obviously, Mitchell’s comment was not remotely racist. I do not think that his comment had any racial element whatsoever.
But let’s say, hypothetically, that Mitchell’s comment had some distant connection to the racist comment that people of Heritage X “all look alike.” Then the force of Mitchell’s comment would be to make fun of that racist comment. It’s not racist to make fun of racists.
Have any of Mitchell’s critics seen Sarah Silverman’s film, “Jesus is Magic?” This film is filled — absolutely filled — with overtly racist comments. Except that Silverman is obviously making fun of those comments by exaggerating them to the point of absurdity. How many left-wingers have condemned Silverman for this movie? Come on — how many? The answer, to my knowledge, is zero. Instead, this film vaulted Silverman’s career. Variety calls it “Explosively funny, unnervingly shocking and perversely adorable!”
I submit that anyone who blasts Mitchell for his comment, but who does not condemn Silverman a thousand fold, is a hypocrite (and an idiot to boot).