Jenkins says press got it wrong on 'white hope' comment

Lynn Jenkins says her 'great white hope' comment had nothing to do with race.
Orlin Wagner/AP

Politicians are notoriously able back-pedalers. Give a politician a freewheel bicycle and he or she could probably back-pedal that thing into the Stone Age. But even by the high standards of the Beltway, a new statement from US Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who represents Kansas’s 2nd District, stretches the bounds of credibility.

On Aug. 19, Jenkins told attendees of a Kansas rally that the Republican Party was in need of a “great white hope.” The kind of "great white hope" that might be able to challenge the sitting black president. Or at least that's how we humble folks in the press took the statement. (As we explained, the term "great white hope" has a whole lot of racial baggage attached to it.)

But Jenkins is aghast that anyone might have construed her words in such a vile manner. Aghast! And (mostly) unbowed. According to the Associated Press, Jenkins says her statement was not a reference to a potential GOP challenger to President Barack Obama. Instead, the AP has the following report:

Jenkins said Thursday that she was making a comment about GOP leaders in the US House. She says she was trying to reassure Republicans that there are bright leaders there. But Jenkins says she apologizes if anyone was offended by her remarks at the Aug. 19. forum. She says she was unaware of any negative connotation to the phrase.

You have to admit that the words "white" and "bright" do sort of sound alike. One might be able to easily confuse them.

Bonus history fact: The phrase "great white hope" was first used by boxing promoters searching for a Caucasian fighter who could beat Jack Johnson. They never found one. But Johnson, a black man, eventually became the target of a racist campaign, and in 1920, he was shipped to prison. That prison – yes, you guessed it – was in Kansas.


Are higher taxes inevitable?

Obama made a campaign pledge that he wouldn’t raise taxes on anyone except the very well-to-do. But his options are narrowing.


Follow us on Twitter

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.