Burgess Owens blasts paper's 'pathetic' cartoon comparing him to KKK: 'Woke racism’


Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, called out the Salt Lake Tribune for “woke racism” after the paper published a “pathetic” editorial cartoon comparing him to the Ku Klux Klan that has also irked fellow Utah Republican lawmakers. 

The carton by longtime satirist Pat Bagley compared rhetoric by Owens about migrants crossing the southern border to comments made by the Ku Klux Klan 70 years ago.

“The @sltrib and @Patbagley compare me to the KKK, the radical hate group that terrorized me in my youth, because I am one of many sounding the alarm of the trauma being faced by women and children crossing the border. This is pathetic,” Owens tweeted to accompany an image of the illustration.


The Salt Lake Tribune did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other Utah lawmakers have defended Owens and condemned the cartoon.

“The Salt Lake Tribune recently published a repugnant ‘cartoon’ comparing Congressman Burgess Owens, our esteemed colleague and only black member of the Utah delegation, to a member of the Ku Klux Klan. This racially charged, perverse political statement is beyond the pale. We ask that The Salt Lake Tribune immediately take down this horrific image, issue a formal apology, and hold themselves to a higher standard,” Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Mitt Romney, and Representatives Chris Stewart, John Curtis and Blake Moore said in a joint statement.

Bagley defended his cartoon on Twitter.

“If any one of these Utah pols uttered the white supremacist dogwhistle Burgess Owens used he would have been featured in the cartoon. Treating Owens differently because of his race is the definition of racism,” Bagley wrote. “If Owens doesn’t want to be dunked for using white supremacist talking points then he shouldn’t use white supremacist talking points.”

Owens recently called on President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to “get some backbone” and visit the U.S.-Mexico border amid a surge in migrant crossings. He toured Texas’ Rio Grande Valley region this month with six other Republicans from the House Judiciary Committee led by ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, according to Border Report. 


“To President Biden and Vice President Harris: Get some backbone,” Owens said during a speech in Edinburg, Texas. “Get some compassion. Come down to the border and see what mess you’ve made.”

Owens talked about some of the children he saw at border processing centers, including a 7-year-old girl with autism he said entered the country alone and couldn’t stop crying and another girl who wouldn’t speak because she had been “gang-raped.”

“Whether you’re American or Mexican or Guatemalan, it doesn’t matter,” he said in his speech. “These are our children. And we have an administration that does not have the backbone to come down here and give encouragement to these great men and women who are doing the job and are being overwhelmed right now,” Owens said of Border Patrol agents.

Owens — a former NFL player — flipped Utah’s 4th Congressional District for Republicans in one of the most competitive 2020 House races. He spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention and touched on his family’s roots in slavery. 

His great-great-grandfather Silas Burgess came to America shackled in the belly of a slave ship, Owens said. He was sold on an auction block in Charleston, S.C., to the Burgess Plantation. A young Burgess managed to escape slavery through the Underground Rail and grew up to be a landowner and leader in his West Texas community, founding a Black church and elementary school. 


Generations later, Burgess Owens was born in Columbus, Ohio and named for his first American ancestor. His father ended up in Ohio to get his Ph.D. from Ohio State in 1950 after being rejected from colleges in Texas because of his skin color. The family moved to Tallahassee, where his dad was a professor of agriculture at Florida A&M, a historically Black university.

Growing up in the days of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan, Owens said he had no interaction with White Americans until he was 16 years old. 

Fox News’ Marissa Schultz and Brie Stimson contributed to this report.


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