Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan posted on her personal Facebook page Friday that she’s been subject to racist and sexist attacks from fellow Republicans.
In her post, Carnahan, who was born in South Korea and adopted by Minnesota parents, wrote that “Some (sadly) Republican Party leaders/executive committee members around this state have made racist comments about me, and to me — calling me ‘dragon lady, a ch*nk, a stupid Asian not even born in America’ and other awful racial slurs.”
Carnahan wrote that the attacks are “starting to get to me.” In an interview with the Star Tribune, Carnahan declined to identify who attacked her, but said the comments were not directed at her own executive board, which includes a member from each of Minnesota’s congressional districts, plus a finance chair, party treasurer and other elected officers.
Carnahan said she was merely venting on her personal page, and thanking her father for his support after she reached out to him for advice on the attacks.
“I was trying to highlight the admiration and respect I have for my father. I’m trying to bring a positive voice to the party and show the importance of working together and being positive,” she said in the interview. In the Facebook post, she related her father’s advice: “My dad told me to be polite and respectful to others no matter what they say to me. That is why I love my dad so much.”
Elected to the party’s top leadership post in spring 2017, Carnahan is leading Minnesota Republicans at a pivotal time. Party insiders see big opportunities in the open governor’s race, a special election for a U.S. Senate seat, and open seats in the First and Eighth congressional districts.
Carnahan would not be the first party chair to be subject to scornful treatment by party activists, who are known to be tough customers prone to intrigue. But in a week highlighted by President Donald Trump’s visit to northern Minnesota, Carnahan’s comments underscore the party’s challenges in a state with increasing numbers of younger, more diverse voters, especially in the Twin Cities area.
A former marketing official at companies including Ecolab and General Mills, Carnahan was still new to politics when she unexpectedly won a contested race for party chair last year. Her only previous political experience was an unsuccessful state Senate campaign a year earlier.
This is not her first foray into fraught racial politics as leader of the state GOP. Soon after taking over, she demanded the resignation of a Seventh District Republican official who posted on a party Facebook page a religious slur attacking U.S. Rep Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who is Muslim.
Even though she condemned the attack on Ellison, Carnahan said her position as party chairwoman exposed her to racial attacks and threatening mail from DFLers as well.
“I’m getting it from both directions,” she said Friday.
In her Facebook post, she said she receives hate-filled e-mail and social media messages on a daily basis. She said she was accosted at the Trump rally in Duluth this week, where she said she was told she is “disgusting.” E-mails have said she is “not worth a penny” and should “crawl back into a hole and stay there,” and that she deserves to make less money than her male predecessors, she said.
Democrats blame Trump for unleashing a new era of racial division, citing numerous examples over the past two years of his presidency.
Carnahan, whose current term ends next year, said she rejects the idea that Trump has ushered in racial animosity.
“I told [Trump] I want to run again to be chair because I want to deliver the state to you in 2020,” Carnahan said. “If I thought he was a racist or that anything he did was stoking racial divisions, I wouldn’t want to work on his behalf because I’ve had to deal with racism my entire life.”