THE REPUBLICAN National Committee has courted controversy with a St Patrick’s Day tweet featuring a photoshopped mugshot of Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke wearing a green leprechaun’s hat alongside the words “please drink responsibly”.
The mugshot comes from an incident that took place back in September 1998 when O’Rourke was booked for driving while drunk on a Texas interstate.
All charges were ultimately dismissed after he completed a court-approved diversion program.
The altered picture was tweeted from the official GOP account on Sunday, March 17th along with the caption: “On this St Paddy’s Day, a special message from noted Irishman Robert Francis O’Rourke.”
On this St. Paddy's Day, a special message from noted Irishman Robert Francis O'Rourke. pic.twitter.com/JRjMEXhZRY
— GOP (@GOP) March 17, 2019
The tweet attracted criticism from political commentators in the US who have criticised it for “promoting negative Irish stereotypes” and branded it “racist”.
Matthew Dowd, chief political analyst for ABC News, tweeted: “As an Irishman this is deplorable. As an American it is unpatriotic. As a human it is racist.”
Brian Lowry, Washington correspondent of the Kansas City Star, meanwhile, asked: “Irish Americans are actually a pretty big segment of the electorate.
“There’s 30m of us. GOP’s social media team thought it was a good idea to dunk on Beto by promoting negative Irish stereotypes on our holiday?”
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, America’s oldest Irish Catholic organisation, were also among those to denounce the tweet.
“The Ancient Order of Hibernians are shocked and appalled that on St. Patrick’s Day, a day when America celebrates and honours the contributions that Irish Americans have made to our great country, the GOP would launch an attack on a prospective presidential candidate based solely on his Irish Heritage,” a statement read.
“This offensive meme is nothing more than a 21st-century version of the scurrilous anti-Irish cartoons of Thomas Nast,” the group added.
As an Irishman this is deplorable. As an American it is unpatriotic. As a human it is racist.
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) March 17, 2019
“The Hibernians had hoped that the days when a candidate’s Irish ancestry would be used as a campaign fodder were confined to the dark past; that today American political debate focuses on the issues, not the ancestry of a candidate.”
“Sadly, this toxic tweet from the GOP proves we were optimistic and premature in our beliefs.”
It’s not the first time the mugshot, or O’Rourke’s arrest by University of Texas El Paso police in 1995 for jumping a fence have been used to attack his candidacy.
The 46-year-old was unfazed by this latest attack, stating there is “nothing” in his past that could hurt his campaign.
O’Rourke announced his plans to run for the White House this week, raising $6.1m in the first 24 hours of his official run.
That total broke the record set by Bernie Sanders and is more than any other Democratic challenger to disclose their first-day totals.