The Republican Party took a swing at Beto O’Rouke on Sunday by linking his Irish heritage to a decades-old DWI arrest.
“On this St. Paddy’s Day, a special message from noted Irishman Robert Francis O’Rourke,” the GOP tweeted from the party’s official Twitter account, along with a doctored version of O’Rourke’s decades-old mugshot that depicts him wearing a cartoon leprechaun hat and holding up the words “Please drink responsibly.”
O’Rourke has publicly addressed his DWI in the past, calling it “a serious mistake for which there’s no excuse.” The charge was dismissed after he completed a diversion program.
The GOP has gone after O’Rourke’s drinking record in the past, though this appears to be the first time Republicans have conflated it with his Irish ancestry in what many criticizing the tweet saw as the furthering of a centuries-old anti-Irish stereotype.
“As an Irishman this is deplorable,” tweeted Matthew Dowd, the chief strategist for President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004, now a political analyst at ABC News. “As an American it is unpatriotic. As a human it is racist.”
Added Brett Bruen, who served for two years under President Barack Obama as the White House’s director of global engagement: “As [a] person of Irish heritage, I find this deeply offensive. For years, the stereotype of Irish drunkenness was used to discriminate against & denigrate people from #Ireland. It has no place in American politics.”
Others were quick to call out the GOP’s apparent hypocrisy in mocking O’Rourke given that Matt Gaetz, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney — among other prominent Republicans — have also run afoul of the law for driving under the influence. Heavy drinking was also a key issue in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
The GOP’s tweet referred to O’Rourke by his formal name, as President Trump has in the past. ‘Beto,’ which O’Rourke has gone by since childhood, is a common Mexican nickname for people named Roberto; some of O’Rourke’s critics allege his use of the nickname is an attempt to curry favor with voters of color.