Well, that joke went over people’s heads.
Twitter — usually not the best medium for conveying sarcasm — raked Rep. John Yarmuth over the coals this weekend after he suggested lawmakers impose a “total and complete shutdown of teenagers wearing MAGA hats until we can figure out what is going on.”
MAGA has become shorthand for President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
The Kentucky Democrat’s tweet was a riff on Trump’s 2016 campaign proposal for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
At that time, the comments caused an uproar and drew accusations from both Democrats and some Republicans that Trump is a racist.
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Yarmuth fired off the tweet in response to a video that emerged online Saturday, showing a group of mostly white MAGA-hat-wearing male students circling around a Native American protester who was singing a tribal song by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
The protester, Nathan Phillips, told The Washington Post that he felt the incident “was getting ugly,” and he was thinking, “I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation.”
More videos emerged later complicating the initial reporting on the incident. The new footage cast doubt on whether the boys — from Covington Catholic High School outside Cincinnati — were the provocateurs.
The students were in D.C. for Saturday’s March for Life, while Phillips was attending the Indigenous People’s March happening at the same time.
One such video, filmed before the students’ standoff with Phillips, shows African-American protesters who identified as Hebrew Israelites hurling obscenity-laced insults at the boys and other demonstrators.
Phillips later clarified that he was trying to defuse the situation with his drum and song.
The online outrage machine, though, had already taken aim at the MAGA-gear-wearing students by the time those videos contextualizing the standoff between Phillips and the Covington Catholic students emerged.
Yarmuth’s Twitter comments fit the pattern of lawmakers and media commentators who initially denounced the students, linking their apparel supporting the president to what first appeared to be racist behavior.
“I am calling for a total and complete shutdown of teenagers wearing MAGA hats until we can figure out what is going on. They seem to be poisoning young minds,” Yarmuth tweeted Sunday morning. “The conduct we saw in this video is beyond appalling, but it didn’t happen in a vacuum. This is a direct result of the racist hatred displayed daily by the President of the United States who, sadly, some mistake for a role model.”
The tweet garnered more than 30,000 replies and only roughly 3,600 retweets. In the Twitter lexicon, a number of replies to a much lower number of retweets is referred to as a bad “ratio.” It typically indicates a negative overall response to a tweet.
I am calling for a total and complete shutdown of teenagers wearing MAGA hats until we can figure out what is going on. They seem to be poisoning young minds. [1/2] https://t.co/yq5bLd4kE2— Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth) January 20, 2019
Yarmuth later clarified that the first part of his tweet was a “joke” and pasted a photo of the president’s quote from 2016 calling for a ban on “Muslims” entering the U.S.
“The President’s fans seem far more upset by my (obvious) joke about banning hats than they were when the President said literally the same thing about banning actual human beings. Go figure,” Yarmuth tweeted.
By Monday evening, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the president had apparently filled himself in on the debate raging over the standoff, taking the side of the boys and quoting Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson.
“Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false — smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback!” Trump tweeted late Monday, referring to a boy from the school who stood face-to-face with Phillips by the Lincoln Memorial during the altercation.