One of the season’s favorite GOP talking points concerns a 2002 incident where Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is black and Republican, had Oreos thrown at him by detractors, who were hateful and presumably Democratic. It’s been bandied in a boatload of dispatches ever since, and recently prompted RNC chair Ken Mehlman to demand his DNC counterpart Howard Dean renounce the ugly racist incident.
The episode was supposed to have occurred at a debate with gubernatorial candidates Robert Ehrlich and then Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. News reports and outraged pundits have variously described Steele as being “pelted,” “bombarded” and otherwise humiliated with the racial-authenticity-challenging snack food. However, Baltimore City Paper reporter Gadi Dechter sets out to confirm the alleged incident, and only turns up a vague memory from Steele himself of “one or two” cookies rolling up at his feet. Oh, sure, Ehrlich spokesman Paul Schurick claims the assault was so heinous that it acquired a certain supernatural biblical (not to say shape-shifting) force: “It was raining Oreos. They were thick in the air like locusts.” But Schurick also claims to have seen the ghost of Jim Morrison–or as he likes to call him, “the Oreo King”–at the event, so perhaps that particular eyewitness account calls for a bit of skepticism.
The Oreo yarn only resurfaced after its curious 1,000-day retirement when blogger Steve Gillard–who is black and definitely not Republican–posted an offensive and dumb photoshopped image of Steele, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, as a blackface minstrel on his blog, replete with an offensive and dumb Amos-and-Andy style caption indicating Steele is an Uncle Tom on grounds of his party affiliation. You don’t, in other words, have to take sides on this fracas in any ideological terms to feel as though battles like this bequeath to our children a colossally stupider, ranker, and more opportunistic world. Nevertheless, we still await follow-up reports on the shocking rumors that opponents of Ehrlich and Townsend hung both candidates by their ankles above bubbling vats of Snickerdoodle and Irish Oatmeal cookie dough.
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