August 27th, 2009
07:27 PM ET
5 years ago

Congresswoman apologizes for 'great white hope' comment

Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins told a Kansas newspaper that she did not intend to make a racist comment when she said her party was looking for a 'great white hope.'
Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins told a Kansas newspaper that she did not intend to make a racist comment when she said her party was looking for a 'great white hope.'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Republican congresswoman apologized Thursday for saying that her party is looking for a "great white hope" to counteract President Obama's political agenda.

Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins told the Lawrence Journal-World that she did not intend to make a racist comment, and was simply saying that "Republicans have been suffering in recent years and we need a bright light."

"Obviously I was discussing the future of the Republican Party in response to a question about is there any hope for Republicans," Jenkins said. "I was explaining that there are some bright lights in the House, and I was unaware of any negative connotation. If I offended somebody, obviously I apologize."

Jenkins had been criticized for saying at an August 19 forum in Kansas that the GOP needs "to find the great white hope" to help the party succeed in the future.

"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," Jenkins said. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington."


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soundoff (140 Responses)
  1. Randolph Carter

    If you know a little history, you'd know that the origin of the term had to do with people trying to find a white guy to win back the heavyweight title from Jack Johnson, a black guy. So yes, the implications of using that phrase are a bit racist and do show one of the many unspoken motives of the reptile party. Have a nice day!

    August 27, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. Tod

    Sure congress woman! wink wink.

    August 27, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. Mr. Trueman

    Since when did the term "Great White Hope" refer to lights? It has and will always refer to somebody who is white that is going to make something big happen, hopefully. This is the REAL reson the GOP lost in the last election. It's because they exclude people who have no control of what they look like. I would like to see somebody take control of the GOP that has common sense and take in people of all kinds.

    August 27, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  4. John in WV

    Sounds like she's been going to too many town hall meetings.

    August 27, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  5. Rackit

    Acutally any Hope after this charade as a president would be nice,

    August 27, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. T Mckinley

    What more can I say? Many of us have known for quite some time the REAL reason why angry white people are holding "tea parties" and protesting health care reform. It's all about a black man being in the White House. Lynn Jenkins just let it slip.

    August 27, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. Marcel - Atlanta

    Are we supposed to believe that Rep. Jenkins is so illiterate as to not know the context of the phrase "great white hope"? The whole story was about how segregation and prejudice played a part in finding a white boxer to bring down the Black boxing champ Jack Johnson. I'm getting sick of all the "unintended code words" to rally the fringe members of the right. I still holding out hope that not all Republicans buy into this garbage, but the rhetoric from people like her doesn't help their case.

    August 27, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  8. I'll make 'em famous

    If you wanna stay in that party then you have no choice but to fall in ranks just like the army – do as they do, etc..

    August 27, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Kansas Dem

    I've met Lynn Jenkins before and she seems like genuinely nice person so I don't believe she is a racist or intended her remark to be racists. Of course after meeting her I didn't think she was that smart either!

    August 27, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  10. Greg

    Yeah right , she was looking for a bright light. How stupid do you think we are? Republicans are racist, period.

    August 27, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. Solomon

    It is very funny to see how people try to safe face when cought in racial bigotry. This racist congresswoman from Kansas clearly meant what she said the first time: " We need a great white hope to counteract President Barack Obama who according to her is the great black hope". The fact is Barack Obama is the elected president of the United States of America and represents all Americans regardless of your color, creed, or religion. Stop trying to divide America ethnically!.

    Solomon
    Charleston SC

    August 27, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  12. Dennis

    As treasurer she set up saving plans for minorites to pay for college. I don't think she's a racist. Unfortunately choice of words, yes. Racist, no.

    August 27, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  13. Mark

    I love it. The Republicans know exactly what they're doing and saying. Just putting their various comments out there acheives what they want it to and they then back track and say it was a slip of the tounge.

    August 27, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Alex

    At best, a terrible choice of words. Will the next generation of congressmen and women realize that every word they say will make around the world in seconds? These people make an obscene amount of money; the least they can do is think before they speak.

    August 27, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. Karl

    She needs to resign immediately. No question.

    August 27, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. BOBBY K. FROM BIRMINGHAM, AL.

    I have been noticing that CNN will not post any of my comments. My comments are quite mild compared to other people's comments?????

    Back to this article. The comment from this congresswomen only justifies what the republicans think and want. I should not just blame the republicans but alot of Americans feels the same way!! If you don't believe me ask my wife about certain people views from her job!

    Have a nice day!!!

    August 27, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. Jasmine in Germany

    Jenkins' comment was quite inappropriate. For those who don't know the origin of "great white hope", please check Wikipedia. Perhaps she was thinking of Melville's "great white whale", but boy did she make a big mistake. This Congresswoman seems to be unaware of American history and the English language. At least she apologized for her "misstatement".

    August 27, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. Tough Lady, NC

    Brown skin people need not apply. What an idiot, we know what you meant Congreswoman. Those of us that are intelligent know what all the fuss is about anytime our Black President tries to do something to help our country.

    August 27, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. Shari, NY

    The true meaning of this idiom is "Something or someone that is expected to succeed". However, in this country, sensitivity prevails so you have to watch your mouth lest the foot finds its way in.

    August 27, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. B in Pittsburgh

    Um, if you want to say we need a "bright light" or "bright new hope" then just say that!

    That comment was nothing but racist.

    August 27, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. DT

    LOL...well she's from Kansas what did you expect? I mean honestly? I love it Repubs...keep being idiots and distancing yourselves from the common man...(And minorities) keep it up.

    August 27, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. Jon

    The phrase "Great White Hope" comes from boxing, when once Jack Johnson became the first black champion, the media clamored for a white challenger who could beat him.

    August 27, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Independent

    No need to appologize everyone knows by now what the GOP/Repubs is about....

    August 27, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  24. Marie MD

    The repugs need to shut the heck up for a few months. Every time they try anything, and I mean anything, it backfires on them. They are all showing that they are a bunch of backward racist hillbillies without a clue.

    August 27, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  25. BOBBY K. FROM BIRMINGHAM, AL.

    Lights??????? Oh and I have land on the Moon (wink, wink)
    WHATEVER!!!

    August 27, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
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