Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita drew waves of backlash on social media after he tweet-praised Kanye West’s “independent thinking” over the weekend and on Monday commended Christopher Columbus for “discovering America.”
Rokita’s tweets—on his official state account—came just days after the rapper, who now goes by Ye, made remarks on Instagram and Twitter that were widely criticized as being antisemitic. Ye’s social media accounts have since been restricted for the posts.
The Republican attorney general plunged himself into the chaos Sunday afternoon, tweeting a link to an MSNBC blog post about Ye’s other recent controversies. The blog post centered on widespread criticism of Ye’s appearance at last week’s Paris Fashion Week where he wore a shirt that said “White Lives Matter.”
The phrase first appeared in 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The Southern Poverty Law Center additionally maintains that the phrase has ties to neo-Nazi and white-supremacist groups.
Rokita’s office says he “unaware” of Ye’s antisemitic comments
In his Twitter post, Rokita criticized “the media,” which he said had “gone after Kanye for his new fashion line, his independent thinking & for having opposing thoughts from the norm of Hollywood.”
Rokita tweeted again just hours later, saying his earlier post “was specifically and clearly aimed at the hypocrisy of the media and Hollywood elites, not anything to do with other comments. I have an obvious, clear and substantial Congressional and public record of being 100% supportive of the Jewish community and Israel.”
The Indiana Democratic Party on Monday responded to Rokita’s tweets, maintaining that “instances of antisemitism and hate need to be condemned.”
“Todd Rokita’s comments are disgusting and beneath any person holding elected office,” party spokesperson Drew Anderson said in a statement. “This is just one more example of Rokita running to be the Indiana Republican Party’s biggest extremist, and his political stunt is another reminder the GOP puts its out-of-touch agenda first, Indiana’s future last.”
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office told the Indiana Capital Chronicle on Monday that Rokita “was unaware of the other comments made by Kanye West at the time” of his original tweet.
Spokesperson Kelly Stevenson said “he actually articulated his message on Saturday morning. However, the communications team did not publish the comment until a day and a half later.”
His tweets drew thousands of reactions—most in opposition. He also garnered a mention by The Washington Post.
Columbus Day debacle
But Rokita’s incendiary tweets did not stop there.
On Monday, he again tweeted from his official attorney general account about Columbus Day, which he described as a day “that led to the creation of our great Republic.”
“Discovering America was like landing on the moon back then,” Rokita tweeted. “We should resist the woke lefts attempts at canceling this history with a socialist viewpoint.”
He additionally pointed to a quote by Ronald Reagan, in which the former president commends Columbus as “a brilliant navigator, a fearless man of action, a visionary who opened the eyes of an older world to an entirely new one.”
Rokita concluded by saying that Columbus “personifies a view of the world that many see as quintessentially American: not merely optimistic, but scornful of the very notion of despair.”
Dozens of critical replies from other Twitter users quickly mounted Monday morning.
Many commenters ridiculed Rokita for his complimentary comments about the Italian explorer, given that Native American advocates say such “whitewashed” views of American history glorify Europeans who have committed violence against Indigenous communities.
Native Americans have long criticized the inaccuracies surrounding Columbus’ legacy, including the narrative that he “discovered” the Americas when Indigenous people were there first.
As such, President Biden became the first president to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2021, which falls on the same day as Columbus Day. He did so again this year.
The day is intended to honor Native Americans, their resilience and their contributions to American society throughout history, even as they faced assimilation, discrimination and genocide.
Columbus Day remains a federal and state holiday that gives government employees the day off from work.
Rokita’s office did not comment specifically on the Columbus Day comments for social media backlash.
Ye’s antisemitic remarks
Twitter and Instagram restricted Ye’s accounts over the weekend and said they removed the rapper’s posts after online users condemned them as anti-Semitic.
In a now-deleted Instagram post on Friday, Ye posted screenshots of an alleged conversation with another rapper, Sean “Diddy” Combs, with the caption “Jesus is Jew.”
The message from Ye appeared to show Ye claiming Combs was controlled by Jewish people—a reference to a longstanding antisemitic conspiracy theory.
Ye responded to his suspension on Twitter, saying in a post on the separate social media platform that he would go “death con 3 On Jewish people.” He also wrote, “The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also,” earning him a second disbarment.
Before that, Ye appeared last week in a Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson where he echoed similar anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. In the interview, Ye insinuated that former Donald Trump senior advisor Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, brokered Israeli peace treaties in order “to make money.”
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.