House Ways & Means Committee Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Kelly, R-Pa., speaks during a hearing on proposals to compel presidents and presidential candidates to make public years of their tax returns on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Washington.
Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

White GOP congressman says, ‘I’m a person of color’

In the wake of Donald Trump’s recent racist criticisms of four Democratic congresswomen, there’s been considerable discussion about the president and his antagonistic relationship with minority communities and people of color.

And it appears that conversation has bothered a white Republican congressman from Pennsylvania – for a curious reason.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, is defending comments he made to a reporter Tuesday, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s tweets telling four congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from.

“You know, they talk about people of color. I’m a person of color. I’m white,” Kelly told Daniel Newhauser of Vice News. “I’m an Anglo-Saxon. People say things all the time, but I don’t get offended. With a name like Mike Kelly you can’t be from any place else but Ireland.”

As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s article added, the GOP congressman believes the excerpt from his Vice News interview “mischaracterized our conversation and my broader point: We’re all created equal. It’s time to stop fixating on our differences and focus on what unites us.”

Perhaps, though that doesn’t change the fact that a white Republican congressman described himself – on the record and on tape – as a “person of color.”

As a general rule, no one defines “person of color” this way, and no one should.

If Mike Kelly’s name sounds at all familiar, it’s because he makes national headlines from time to time, though generally not in flattering ways.

A couple of months into Donald Trump’s presidency, for example, the Pennsylvania Republican suggested Barack Obama remained in D.C. after leaving the White House in order to “run a shadow government that is going to totally upset the new agenda.”

A few years earlier, Kelly was tasked with writing a bill on energy policy, which he failed to do because, as his office put it at the time, the congressman “chose to focus” instead on Benghazi and other Republican conspiracy theories.

Kelly, representing Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district, was re-elected last fall, though he only won by a 4% margin. He’s likely to be a Democratic target in the 2020 cycle.