The Congressman Who Fought About Racism With Rashida Tlaib Used To Make Birther Jokes

Chip Somodevilla; Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

After denying accusations of racism during Michael Cohen's congressional hearing Wednesday, Rep. Mark Meadows' comments about Obama from 2012 have resurfaced. A video showed that while campaigning for a seat in Congress then, Meadows said that he would send President Barack Obama "back to Kenya," referencing a talking point that was straight out of the "birtherism" conspiracy theory that claims without evidence that Obama was not born in America.

The video of Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, talking about Obama resurfaced after he got into a heated exchange with Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib during Cohen's hearing. Cohen, who was President Trump's personal attorney for many years, had claimed that Trump is "racist" during his testimony.

While questioning Cohen, Meadows pointed to his guest at the hearing, Lynne Patton — a black woman who worked for the Trump Organization and is currently at the Housing and Urban Development Department — in an attempt to defend Trump against Cohen's accusation of racism.

"You made some very demeaning comments about the president that Patton doesn’t agree with," Meadows told Cohen.

Later on in the hearing, Tlaib said Meadows' decision to bring Patton as a "prop" was "racist." An explosive back-and-forth ensued between Tlaib and Meadows, with the Republican lawmaker saying at one point that his nieces and nephews were people of color.

Shortly after the exchange, the Democratic Coalition's official account tweeted the 2012 clip of Meadows talking about Obama. In it, Meadows said, "If we do our job from a grassroots standpoint, we won't have to worry about [Obama]. We'll send him back to Kenya, or wherever it is. You know, we'll send him back home."

Speaking to CNN on Thursday, Meadows attempted to downplay his comments from that time: "It was early on in a primary and certainly didn’t indicate any personal malice that I would have toward any president. Anyone who knows me knows that there is not a racial bone in my body."

In his 2012 clip, Meadows also followed up his comments about Obama with: "We will get a new commander-in-chief who will hopefully honor the Constitution, respect our military, and quit undercutting it." At various points during his 2012 conference, the audience laughed at the North Carolina Republican's jabs at Obama.

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During Cohen's congressional hearing on Wednesday, Tlaib said, "Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean that they aren't racist. And it is insensitive ... the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself."

Irked, Meadows responded, "To indicate that I asked someone who is a personal friend of the Trump family, who has worked for him, who has worked for this particulate individual … that’s she’s coming in to be a prop, it’s racist to suggest that I asked her to come in for that reason."

The two lawmakers appeared to have cooled down since that exchange, though. On Thursday, The Hill reported that both Tlaib and Meadows hugged each other on the House floor. Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell confirmed on Twitter: "I was right in the middle of it when it happened and Meadows seemed very genuine! There is hope."