Rep. Yoho calls Pres. Obama's tanning tax 'racist'

North Central Florida congressman raising eyebrows over comments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There seems to be some stormy weather for a Gainesville man who recently joined the fray on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho is in his first year serving in Congress after an upset victory over long-time Congressman Cliff Stearns in the district. But recent comments at a town hall meeting in his district are raising eyebrows and coming under fire from opponents.

The freshman congressman held a community meetings in his North Central Florida district this week, and his comments seem to make more news as each day goes by.

"I had a little fun with [John] Boehner and told him about the sun tanning tax. He goes, ‘I didn't know it was in there,' and I said, ‘Yes, it's a 10 percent tax.' He goes, ‘Well, that's not that big of a deal.' I said, ‘It's a racist tax.,'" said Yoho.

Beyond comments on the tanning bed tax in President Obama's healthcare overhaul, Yoho said he would support Texas Rep. Steve Stockman's bill to investigate the president's birth certificate.

"So I called Steve up when I got back. He says, 'Yeah, we're doing it. You want to get on that?'" I says, 'yeah,'" said Yoho.

Opponents say this is just the latest on the list of poor choices by the Gainesville veterinarian.

"I don't think of Yoho as anything but a smart man, but smart minds disagree on a variety of things," said second vice chair of Duval Democratic Committee, Justin Spiller.

Spiller, a leader in the Duval Democratic Party, says Yoho's comments on both topics upset him.

"At the end of the day, to continue to question the president's citizenry is offensive. At the end of the day, to call tanning bed tax racist is offensive," said Spiller.

The Gainesville Tea Party leader told Channel 4 both comments were to point out Yoho's real priority in Congress, which is dealing with the national debt.

But Florida Democrats found it an opportunity to jump on the first-year representative and his party.

"Congressman Yoho's absurd 'birther' comments bely a much broader problem for the GOP: They cannot seem to get out of their own way when it comes to extreme rhetoric and offensive statements," said Democratic Press Secretary Max Steele. "The congressman's statements speak for themselves and serves to show just how out of touch he is with the overwhelming majority of Floridians."

"I think Mr. Yoho is looking for a little attention," said Spiller. "These comments are so outlandish. I'm not sure it could be anything other than attention he's looking for."

Yoho's office told Channel 4 he's willing to discuss his comments in person once he returns from a trip to Israel on August 18.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.