‘I'm a Person of Color … I'm a White': Pennsylvania Congressman Jokes on Race While Talking About Trump Tweets

A Republican congressman from western Pennsylvania said he has never taken offense to people telling him "to go back to his country": his ancestors came from Ireland and Germany

What to Know

  • Kelly, who was born in Pittsburgh and took over his father's car dealership business, has been in Congress since 2011.
  • He described himself as Irish and German, and his color as white.
  • The Merriam Webster dictionary describes "person of color" as a person who is not white.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a white congressman from western Pennsylvania, told a reporter this week that he believes his Irish and German roots make him a "person of color."

The Republican's remarks came during an exchange with a VICE News journalist on Capitol Hill as debate raged Monday and Tuesday over President Donald Trump's racist tweets against four female, minority congressional colleagues of Kelly's.

"I think we’re going way beyond the pale right now. They talk about people of color. I’m a person of color," Kelly said in a recorded interview.

"Which one?" the reporter asked.

"I’m white. I’m a white. I’m an Anglo Saxon. People say things all the time. But I don’t get offended," Kelly answered.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "person of color" as "a person who is not white."

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AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
House Ways & Means Committee Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Kelly, R-Pa., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Washington. Committee Chairman John Lewis, D-Ga., looks on.

The reporter then asked if anyone has ever told Kelly "to go back to your country," repeating what the president tweeted to the four congresswomen. Three of the four were born in the United States and the fourth emigrated to America as a teenager.

"Yeah, they have as a matter of fact," Kelly said.

In a statement released Wednesday, Kelly said "it's time to stop fixating on our differences and focus on what unites us."

"My broader point in the 5-minute long discussion was that we’re all created equal," he said. "Attempts by Democrats and the media to divide and define us by race are harmful. We need to elevate our level of discussion."

Kelly's comments emerged the same week that Congress voted to condemn Trump for his divisive tweets. It was the first time in a century that a president was condemned by Congress.

Kelly, a Notre Dame University graduate who took over his father's car dealerships and still operates four dealerships, said much of the outrage over Trump's insults comes from the Washington D.C. political class.

In western Pennsylvania, he said, it's a different story.

"Here, in Washington D.C., you worry about all that stuff," he said. "You go back home where I’m from, people don’t worry about that."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney weighed in on President Donald Trump’s racist tweets about four congresswomen. Kenney, a Democrat and vocal critic of the president and his policies, called Trump an idiot and said he would go to hell if he went back to where he came from. The phrase was a reference to Trump’s comments that the congresswomen, who are...
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