US Congressman Chris Smith Denounces Nast Nomination

US Congressman Chris Smith has joined the growing collation of politicians and ethnic groups to denounce. Congressman Smith has written the following letter to the New Jersey Hall of fame echoing the growing protest against Thomas Nast’s nomination.

I am writing to express my concern and disappointment at the inclusion of caricaturist Thomas Nast among the nominees for the 2012 Class of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. As an Irish Catholic, I find his deeply prejudicial and negative portrayals of both Irish immigrants and Catholics offensive and respectfully request that you remove his name from among the list ofnominees for the Hall of Fame.

It has been argued that Mr. Nast’s many noted works, including the Republican elephant, Democratic donkey, and Santa Claus, make him a worthy addition to the New Jersey Hall of Fame. l strongly feel, however, that such an honor would not only overlook but also give credence to the disdain that Mr. Nast openly expressed towards lrish Catholic immigrants to this country. His works portray the Irish, the hardworking ancestors of thousands of New Jerseyans, as little more than savage drunks and rioters wreaking havoc on the American way of life. He also portrays the Catholic Church in a particularly offensive light. I have included a copy of one of his drawings that I found particularly troubling: “The American River Ganges,” in which Catholic bishops are portrayed as vicious crocodiles coming ashore to devour American schoolchildren.

Our country has come a long way since the time of Thomas Nast, a time in which various groups of people, including Irish immigrants and Catholics, faced bigotry and prejudice due to their ethnicity, race, religion, disability, or sex. The vast majority of New Jerseyans and, indeed, of all Americans, pride themselves on condemning such prejudices and hateful stereotypes when they manifest themselves today, no matter what group of people they are directed against. It is therefore regrettable that the New Jersey Hall of Fame would consider celebrating a man who championed this kind of bigotry against Irish Catholics, which would otherwise be universally condemned if directed at other groups. The Hall of Fame’s mission is to honor New Jerseyans who “made invaluable contributions to society and the world beyond” and to promote “significant and powerful role models” for the youth of New Jersey. Honoring a man whose portfolio includes hurtful stereotypes that endure to this day fails to meet that standard.

Again, I respectfully ask that you and the Board members remove Thomas Nast from the list of nominees. The New Jersey Hall of Fame should celebrate people that all New Jersey residents can be proud of not those whose induction would alienate hundreds of thousands by mocking their heritage and faith. I thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Christopher H Smith
Member of Congress