Lawmaker accused of racist Facebook post, later apologizes

A post on the Facebook page of Rep. John Bradford, R-Leavenworth, has since been removed, but not before igniting a firestorm of controversy.

A Kansas lawmaker’s Facebook post depicting a derogatory cartoon image of President Barack Obama and poking fun at Mexican accents ignited a storm of controversy Thursday.

The post (see below) by Rep. John Bradford, R-Lansing, has since been removed from his Facebook page, but not before it prompted a flurry of statements of condemnation.
The posting Bradford shared from the Conservative Country community Facebook page featured a photo of a man wearing a sombrero and a headline, “Mexican words of the day.” It then jokingly fashioned unrelated words into a mock sentence in heavily accented English that celebrated Obama’s leaving office in January 2017. It also included an altered picture of the Democratic president.

Adding to the drama was the fact that Bradford was among a group of lawmakers who, in 2015, filed a formal complaint against Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, an African-American, accusing her of unjustly calling lawmakers racist during a committee meeting.

Winn publicly described supporters of a bill denying in-state tuition to people who are in the U.S. illegally “racist bigots.”

“I find this ironic because just last session Bradford joined several of his House Republican colleagues in trying to oust Rep. Valdenia Winn for asserting that this type of racism existed in the Kansas Legislature,” Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said. “This tasteless Facebook post not only proves that Representative Winn was correct about institutional racism in the Kansas Legislature, it also proves that Rep. Bradford is a racist himself.”

Bradford said the image was something he found elsewhere on Facebook, and when he saw it, he clicked “share.”

“It was in bad taste and I regret it,” he said in a phone interview.

“I’m appalled and offended by the disrespect that Representative Bradford has shown not only to the president, but also to the African-American and Hispanic community,” said Melody McCray-Miller, an African-American former legislator from Wichita who is now a vice-chair of the Kansas Democratic Party.

By Thursday afternoon, McCray-Miller was already sending out fundraising emails for the party citing Bradford’s Facebook post. Bradford has already filed for re-election to his 40th District House seat. So far, no other candidates have filed to challenge him.

Carolyn Campbell, a Kansas State Board of Education member who is running for a seat in the Kansas House this year, said the post shows how far the U.S. still has to go before achieving Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality.

“These types of jokes and comments remind me of the mistreatment and racism that I experienced on a daily basis growing up in the 1950s,” said Campbell, who is black. “I’m saddened and appalled that this is an individual who is making decisions that impact our children’s education system.”

Pedro Irigonegaray, a Cuban-American civil rights and defense attorney in Topeka, said Bradford “is making a mockery of his position by showing gross disrespect to the president of the United States and the Hispanic community.”

“This type of behavior cannot be tolerated, and Republican leadership should take appropriate action immediately and sanction him for his reprehensible, bigoted and racist posting,” he said. “We should remember that Representative Bradford was one of the individuals leading the charge to sanction Representative Winn; it is difficult to conceive greater hypocrisy.”

The post originated from a group called Conservative Country, and is one of dozens of memes it has created criticizing Obama, gun control, Muslims, Democrats and “political correctness” in general.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.