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Colorado GOP Rep. Blasted For Making Lynching Joke And Defending 3/5 Compromise During Civics Debate

Colorado GOP Rep. Blasted For Making Lynching Joke And Defending 3/5 Compromise During Civics Debate

A newly-elected Colorado state lawmaker was slammed for making a lynching joke and argued on the state House floor the Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787 "was not impugning anyone's humanity."

Ron Hanks, who represents Colorado House of Representatives District 60, made the statement while speaking on a bipartisan bill to strengthen civics education in Colorado schools.

Before taking the stand, Hanks was mistakenly introduced as Representative Mike Lynch, a fellow Colorado GOP lawmaker.

Hanks quipped:

"Being called Mr. Lynch might be a good thing for what I'm about to say. Just kidding."

He then defended the Three-Fifths Compromise—an agreement reached during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention stipulating that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person when determining the state's total population.

The Republican lawmaker praised the American system of government as "the best system of government in the world" before making the following statement.

Hanks said:

"I don't think this is contentious but going back to the founding and going back to the three-fifths, I heard the comments and I appreciate them and respect them."
"But the three-fifths compromise of course was an effort by non-slave states to try to reduce the amount of representation that the slave states had. It was not impugning anyone's humanity."

In response to the opposition heard in the chamber, Hanks continued:

"Is this really racist to be talking about what the three-fifths compromise was? I don't think so."
"I think it's important. It's part of the civics lesson here. It was brought up and it merits discussion."

Twitter, however, strongly disagreed.

When 9 News' Next with Kyle Clark asked if Hanks was referring to lynching, the lawmaker responded in an email and said the question was:

"abhorrent and asinine, and it deserves no response, but because I'm sure you are objective in your reporting and a professional, I'll answer it as a courtesy. The answer is: NO. Listen to the audio."

Colorado Democrats were appalled by Hanks' comments on Thursday, including Shenika Carter—who is chair of the African Diaspora Initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party.

Said Carter:

"To call the comments made by Mr. Hanks today disgusting and ignorant would be a gross understatement."
"For him to downplay the indisputable, historical fact that enslaved Black people were treated as less a person's worth both in law and in practice is offensive and beneath the dignity of our state legislature."

Halisi Vinson, executive director of the Colorado Democratic Party, said Hanks was trying to "whitesplain the historical experience of Black people in our country."

Vinson added:

"The fact that Representative Hanks thought it would be appropriate to make a 'joke' about lynching―especially at a time when we're seeing a rise of racially motivated assaults on people of color across our country―is utterly despicable."

This is not the first time Hanks was at the center of controversy. He was the sole Colorado lawmaker who participated in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6, but claimed he left before the riot broke out.