Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
A Minnesota state legislator apologized and deleted a tweet about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that referred to the black jurist as "Uncle Thomas."
State Rep. Ryan Winkler, a Democrat from Golden Valley, posted on Twitter a comment meant to criticize the high court's 5-4 ruling Tuesday that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
In hisdeleted tweet, captured by theMinneapolis City Pagesblog, Winkler wrote there were "four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas."
Winkler, 37, said in subsequent posts on Twitter that he did not believe his reference to Thomas was offensive.
"Deleted Tweet causing offense regarding Justice Thomas. I apologize for it but believe VRA decision does abet racism," Winkler tweeted.
Thomas, who sided with the high court's majority in the case, wrote a separate dissent to say he would have gone further and struck down Section 5 of the law requiring some states to get preclearance for changes in voting procedures. The Supreme Court's narrower decision, Thomas wrote, "needlessly prolongs demise of that provision."
Winkler said in a tweet to Aaron Rupar, a writer forMinneapolis City Pages, that he "did not understand 'Uncle Tom' as a racist term." Winkler noted "there seems to be some debate about it. I do apologize for it, however."
The state lawmaker told the Associated Press he was trying to make a point about institutional racism resulting from the court's decision.
"I used a term that was too hot for the issue, but I didn't intend for it to be derogatory," Winkler said.
Winkler was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2006. He had been considering a 2014 race for secretary of State -- the position of chief elections official for Minnesota -- but told the AP that he will not run.