NPR logo Is John Boehner A 'Person Of Color'?

Is John Boehner A 'Person Of Color'?

While you're pondering that headline, here's a question from Matthew Bond of Nashville, Tenn.:

At the White House Correspondents' Dinner, why did President Obama characterize John Boehner as being of a color "not found in nature"? What did I miss?

In Washington, people for the longest time have always wanted to know about (or made jokes about) Boehner's perpetual tan. (The Almanac of American Politics calls him "eternally tanned." Kim Clark, writing in The New Republic, said Boehner is "preternaturally tan." You get the point.)

Ron Elving and I, in our award-winning "It's All Politics" podcasts, have often joked about Boehner being a "person of color."

At the White House dinner earlier this month, Obama played along. In "suggesting" that Boehner, the House minority leader, is a "person of color" — Ron, did we copyright that joke? — the president followed by saying, "Although not a color that appears in the natural world."

For the record — and I can't believe the conversation has turned serious — there have been four genuine African-American Republicans in Congress since Reconstruction:

Rep. Oscar De Priest (IL) — 1929-34
Sen. Ed Brooke (MA) — 1967-78
Rep. Gary Franks (CT) — 1991-96
Rep. J.C. Watts (OK) — 1995-2002

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.