John McCain Called 'Racist' for Referring to Ahmadinejad as Space 'Monkey'

Alexander Abad-Santos

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed earlier today that he wanted to be the first Iranian in space. And, okay, that might be open to a few jokes considering his country's mostly debunked claim about sending a monkey into orbit last week, which Iranian space officials are still defending. But actually referring to Ahmadinejad — or any person — as a "monkey" is a terrible idea, which Senator John McCain found out today as he went on the defensive himself.

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Upon hearing the news of Ahmadinejad's post-presidency aspirations, McCain or someone on his social-media team sent out this message on his official Twitter feed:

So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week? "Iran launches monkey into space"…

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 4, 2013

Ooof. We don't really need to explain the racial implications of an old white guy comparing a person of a different ethnicity to a monkey, but apparently McCain — or, again, one of his staffers — did not quite understand the gravity of his comparison. The trail of that tweet quickly became long and winding, from those who claim to have gotten the "joke"... 

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McCain's tweet was retweeted over 1,000 times before McCain sent out another tweet an hour later, acknowledging the uproar without offering an apology: 

Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke?

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 4, 2013

That tweet eventually made its way to Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a Congressman of Palestinian descent:

Maybe you should wisen up & not make racist jokes. “@senjohnmccain: Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can't everyone take a joke?”

— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) February 4, 2013

We're used to Democrats chastising Republicans and vice-versa, especially over misinterpreted comments, but that sort of friendly fire — with the word "racist" used explicitly — is something of an anomaly. Of course, this all could have been avoided if, say, Iran sent a seahorse into space. Or if John McCain just refrained from trying to be "funny."