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Saturday, December 07, 2013

In 1988, two Wisconsin Republicans visited apartheid South Africa. It did not go well

Terry and Mary Kohler
Chicago Tribune: Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson has fired Mary Kohler, chairwoman of the Wisconsin Women`s Council, because of controversial remarks Kohler made about blacks in South Africa.

The Republican governor, who previously had disagreed strongly with Kohler`s views on racially segregated South Africa, said Wednesday that she had refused his request to resign. “Therefore I have removed her from the council,“ he said.

Thompson appointed Kohler, whose conservative views on women`s issues parallel his own, shortly after he took office in 1987. Another conservative, Republican State Rep. Susan Vergeront, will replace Kohler on the council, Thompson said.

The 15-member Women`s Council is charged with identifying barriers that prevent women from participating equally in all aspects of life.

Kohler and her husband, Terry, visited white-ruled South Africa for three weeks last February. Kohler later distributed to members of the women`s council copies of a “travelogue“ she had written about the trip.

In the account, she wrote that most blacks in South Africa “are still in the Stone Age“ and that allowing them to vote would be “a total disaster.“

The account was published last week in a Madison newspaper, and the Kohlers later elaborated on their views in a newspaper interview. Kohler said she agreed with her husband, a Sheboygan industrialist and a former Republican candidate for governor and U.S. Senate, that the South African government is being “absolutely as even-handed and unrepressive as it can be“ in its treatment of blacks.

She also said she believes the United States is more racist than South Africa and that South African blacks seem very happy with their lot in life.

Both Kohlers said blacks were not ready to vote in South Africa because of language and cultural differences, and they said universal suffrage in the U.S. has not necessarily been a good thing.

Kohler`s remarks were criticized by the National Organization for Women, which accused her of “utterly racist comments“ and demanded that she be dismissed from her state post.

Kohler said after her dismissal that she is not a racist. She complained that her views had been misquoted and misrepresented.

She maintained that the situation in South Africa has not been accurately portrayed in the news media, and said the South African government is justified in muzzling the press because of its exaggerations.
So how badly did this episode of horrifying racism hurt the Kohler’s standing in the Republican Party?


According to PR Watch, Terry Kohler is “one of the top GOP donors in the country” and an organization with close ties to Kohler was given a half-million dollar “sweetheart deal” to promote outdoor sporting in Wisconsin. The deal was rank enough that public opinion sank it and it’s probably a factor in a second John Doe probe into Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign financing.

So yeah, you can be an unbelievably racist dick and an unashamed former supporter of apartheid and still be a big mover and shaker in the GOP — to the point of being a player in their little corruption scandals.

Remember that the next time you see some Republican shedding crocodile tears over the passing of Nelson Mandela. Terry Kohler’s membership in good standing is a prime example of just how little they really give a fuck.

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