Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed earlier today that he wanted to be the first Iranian in space. And, okay, that might be open to a few jokes considering his country's mostly debunked claim about sending a monkey into orbit last week, which Iranian space officials are still defending. But actually referring to Ahmadinejad — or any person — as a "monkey" is a terrible idea, which Senator John McCain found out today as he went on the defensive himself.
Upon hearing the news of Ahmadinejad's post-presidency aspirations, McCain or someone on his social-media team sent out this message on his official Twitter feed:
So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week? "Iran launches monkey into space" news.yahoo.com/iran-launches-…— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 4, 2013
Ooof. We don't really need to explain the racial implications of an older white guy comparing a person of a different ethnicity to a monkey, but apparently McCain — or, again, one of his staffers — did not quite understand the gravity of his comparison. The trail of that tweet quickly became long and winding, from those who claim to have gotten the "joke"...
...to some calling it rapid-fire racism:
McCain's tweet was retweeted over 1,000 times before McCain sent out another tweet an hour later, acknowledging the uproar without offering an apology:
Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke?— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 4, 2013
That tweet eventually made its way to Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a Congressman of Palestinian descent:
Maybe you should wisen up & not make racist jokes. “@senjohnmccain: Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke?”— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) February 4, 2013
We're used to Democrats chastising Republicans and vice-versa, especially over misinterpreted comments, but that sort of friendly fire — with the word "racist" used explicitly — is something of an anomaly. Of course, this all could have been avoided if, say, Iran sent a seahorse into space. Or if John McCain just refrained from trying to be "funny."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.