A congressman from Alabama who once joked about shooting undocumented immigrants criticized President Obama on Thursday as “the most racially-divisive president” of the United States since the Civil War.
“There probably has not been a more racially-divisive, economic-divisive, president in the White House since we had presidents who supported slavery,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said during a radio interview on the Dale Jackson Show.
When the host asked Brooks to clarify his claim that our nation’s first black president is the most racially divisive since slavery, Brooks offered an optimistic take. “We did have presidents in the first 80 to 100 years of our country that supported slavery,” the Alabama Republican said. “You cannot say Barack Obama was worse than them.”
Listen to it (relevant section begins at 4:20):
Though he declined to elaborate on what precisely gave Obama that superlative in his mind, it’s worth noting a few of the post-Civil War presidents who Brooks considers less racially-divisive:
Andrew Johnson, a former slaveowner who vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and told Congress that “Negroes have shown less capacity for government than any other race of people” and that “wherever they have been left to their own devices they have shown a constant tendency to relapse into barbarism.”
Rutherford Hayes, who cut a deal in the disputed election of 1876 to end Reconstruction if he were elected president. He followed through and ushered in the Jim Crow era, which persisted for a century and resulted in widespread discrimination and the murder of tens of thousands of African Americans.
Chester Arthur, who signed the Chinese Exclusion Act to specifically prohibit Chinese immigrants from entering the United States and penalize Chinese laborers already in the country.
Teddy Roosevelt, who said of Native Americans, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” He also declared that “A perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high plane; the negro for instance, has been kept down as much by a lack of intellectual development as much as anything else.”
Woodrow Wilson, who screened the racist epic The Birth of a Nation at the White House, increased segregation in the federal workforce, and signed a bill making interracial marriage a felony in Washington DC.
Herbert Hoover, who deported more than a million people of Mexican descent, the majority of whom were estimated to actually be Americans.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who created internment camps for all Japanese Americans during World War II and maintained racial segregation in the military.
Ronald Reagan, who not only did little to combat the burgeoning AIDS and crack cocaine epidemics, but also exploited the false, racially-charged notion of “welfare queens.”
George W. Bush, president during Hurricane Katrina and the bungled recovery efforts in the historically-black city of New Orleans.
For his part, Brooks has made a number of racially-charged statements himself, including arguing that Syrian refugees of just looking for a “paid vacation,” peddling conspiracy theories about Obama’s childhood in Indonesia, wrongly accusing “illegal aliens” of causing recent measles outbreaks, and saying that Obama’s immigration policy is based on “skin pigmentation.”