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Blunt explains and defends his joke about monkeys; says not aimed at Obama

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 21, 2009 - The Internet -- especially Democratic and liberal websites -- is abuzz with video, audio and analysisof U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt's decision to tell a joke last Friday about monkeys in the same speech in which he also targets the policies of the nation's first African-American president, Barack Obama, and Democratic allies.

(Click here to check out the New York Times' take.)

But Blunt, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, said Sunday that he is "not going to stand for'' any accusations that the anecdote had a racial subtext, or that he or other like-minded Americans are racist.

"It is disgusting that the Democrats are using race-baiting to try and inflame racial feeling for partisan political gain,'' Blunt said in a detailed statement.

It appeared to be his most expansive public comment since attention has focused on the joke, which the congressman says he has told at political events for years.

"I first heard this joke from a Presbyterian minister in Washington and used it when George Bush was president. It obviously isn't about President Bush or President Obama or any person," Blunt said."It is about things that happen to you in life that you have little control over and which often applies in Washington."

The congressman then took aim at his favorite Missouri political target: Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who is the only announced Democratic candidate for the Senate seat up for grabs next year. Incumbent Republican Christopher "Kit" Bond is retiring.

(Blunt made no mention of his GOP rival, state Sen. Chuck Purgason.)

"It is insulting to everyone, including President Obama, that Robin Carnahan's family blog would say it was a reference to him or race," Blunt said, referring to the attention paid to his joke by the Democratic-aligned Web site, firedupmissouri.com (which was co-founded by former Sen. Jean Carnahan, mother of Robin Carnahan).

Blunt also jabbed at the Democrat occupying Missouri's other U.S. Senate seat, Claire McCaskill.

"We have seen this kind of race-baiting before when Senator McCaskill said George Bush let people die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and black, which she backed away from," Blunt continued. "We saw it with the Democrats' church burning ad in 1998.

"And we are seeing it again now on Robin Carnahan's family blog. The American people are tired of being called racist when they disagree with something in Washington.

"I am not going to stand for it and Robin Carnahan ought not to stand for it either," he concluded.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.