- Democratic member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Former member of the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus
Born on January 28, 1948 in Bolton, Mississippi, Bennie G. Thompson earned a B.A. from Tougaloo College in 1968 and an M.S. from Mississippi State University in 1972. After completing his education, he took a job as a schoolteacher.
Thompson launched his political career in 1969 when he was elected to Bolton’s board of aldermen, where he served for four years. From 1973-79 he was the mayor of Bolton, and from 1980-93 he sat on the Hinds County, Mississippi board of supervisors.
In 1993 Thompson, a Democrat, was voted into the U.S. House of Representatives—representing Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District—in a special election following the resignation of Rep. Mike Espy; he has been reelected to this seat every two years since then. Thompson is a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In 2005 he joined the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus, and since 2011 he has served on the Homeland Security Commission.
Shortly after Congress had approved a $700 billion bailout of financial services firms in October 2008, Thompson was one of six Democratic members of Congress who enjoyed a Caribbean junket sponsored by Citigroup in November. According to the National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group, the trip violated House rules: “The ‘lead sponsor’ was Citigroup, which contributed $100,000. Citigroup was certainly aware that it would be a major recipient of bailout funds. It was also aware that its fortunes had become increasingly reliant on Congressional actions. Citigroup should have also been aware that corporate sponsorship of such an event was banned by House rules adopted on March 1, 2007, in response to the [lobbyist Jack] Abramoff scandal and the infamous golf trip to Scotland.” Joining Thompson on the trip were Charles Rangel, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Bennie Thompson, Donald Payne Jr., and Donna Christensen.
When Republican Congressman Peter King in 2012 sought to convene the fifth in his series of hearings on the dangers of Muslim radicalization, Thompson insisted that Islamic terrorism was no longer something to be feared, given that Osama bin Laden, Anwar Al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan had been killed. “Despite a changing world which requires us to look forward, this [King’s] committee seems to want to look back,” said Thompson.
When interviewed on an April 27, 2014 “New Nation of Islam” webcast, Thompson, who views America as a nation rife with intractable white racism, declared himself to be a strong supporter of affirmative action as a means of “trying to level the playing field” in the academic and business worlds. On the same webcast:
- Thompson identified racism as the major underlying cause of Republican opposition to President Barack Obama‘s political and social agendas. “I never saw George Bush treated like this,” said the congressman. “I never saw Bill Clinton treated like this with such disrespect. That [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell would have the audacity to tell the president of the United States … that, ‘I don’t care what you come up with, we’re going to be against it.’ Now if that’s not a racist statement, I don’t know what is.”
- Thompson accused Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant of opposing Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) “just because a black man created it.” He added that President George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription drug plan had generated far less opposition than Obamacare because “when a black man comes up with an idea [for healthcare] there’s something wrong with it. So again, it’s that race creeping into the picture.” And Thompson likewise attributed the recent increase in anti-government sentiment among many Americans to racism: “Now all of a sudden, government is the worst thing in the world since a black man became president.”
- Thompson spoke about a then-recent controversy involving white Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, who had refused to pay federal grazing fees and had engaged in an armed standoff with federal government agents. According to Thompson, Bundy had received support from Rep. John Boehner, Senator Ted Cruz, and “a lot of those right-wing Republicans,” but only “until he talked [positively] about slavery,” at which time the Republicans “fagged up” and withdrew their support.
- Thompson disparaged conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, an African American, as an “Uncle Tom” and “a lackey for Antonin Scalia.” “When I look at decisions he’s been part of on that Court,” said the Mississippi Democrat, “its almost to the point to say this man [Thomas] doesn’t even like black people. He doesn’t like being black.” Thompson cited, in particular, Justice Thomas’s opposition to affirmative action as evidence of his anti-black bias.
When CNN reporter Dana Bash subsequently asked Rep. Thompson to clarify his “Uncle Tom” reference, the Democrat said that Thomas’s rulings had been “adverse” to the black community. Miss Bash then noted that the term “Uncle Tom” could be viewed as racist and inappropriate if used by a white person, to which Thompson responded, “But I’m black.” “That makes it OK?” asked Bash. To this, Thompson replied: “I mean, you’re asking me the question, and I’m giving you a response. The people that I represent, for the most part, have a real issue with those decisions—voter ID, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act—all those issues are very important, and for someone in the court who’s African American and not sensitive to that is a real problem.”
In 2015, federal agents learned that Thompson’s longtime chief of staff, Issac Lanier Avant, who earned an annual salary of $170,000, had paid less than $450 in federal taxes in 2006 and 2007, and then had paid no taxes — nor even filed a single tax return — from 2008-12. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Avant during that time had “caused a form to be filed with his employer that falsely claimed he was exempt from federal income taxes.” Rep. Thompson, however, refused to fire Avant, stating in August 2016 that he would only terminate his employee “if he’s proven to be guilty” after having “had his day in court.” According to prosecutors, Avant lied throughout their subsequent investigation over the ensuing few months, and when he finally did file his delinquent tax returns, he falsely claimed to have donated $50,000 to a religious group. Avant eventually pleaded guilty to tax evasion, and in January 2017 he was sentenced to a month-long jail term, to be followed by an additional year of weekends behind bars. Yet Thompson quietly kept Avant on staff, where he continued to earn a large salary funded by American taxpayers.
When the Daily Caller in February 2018 contacted Thompson and a number of his fellow Congressional Black Caucus members to ask if they would be willing to publicly denounce the notoriously anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Thompson was one of 20 who not only declined to denounce him, but refused even to issue any comment at all regarding Farrakhan’s incendiary rhetoric.
In an appearance on CNN on Martin Luther King Day 2019, Thompson complained that President Donald Trump’s visit to Dr. King’s memorial statue in Washington was too brief: “[F]or him to go to Martin Luther King’s statue today, for 2 minutes … on a national holiday, for a man [King], so great, who gave his life for this country, to make it a better place. I think it’s an insult.”
For an overview of Thompson’s voting record on an array of key issues, click here.
Further Reading: “Bennie Thompson” (BioGuide.Congress.gov, Votesmart.org, Ballotpedia.org); “Rangel, Other Reps, Party in Caribbean With Citi Funds” (Newsmax.com, 1-30-2009); “Terrorism Denial from Dhimmi Democrats” (by Daniel Greenfield, 6-26-2012, re: quote on the King hearings); “The Son of Man & Congressman Bennie Thompson Discuss Race & Politics” (Video, 4-27-2014); “Rep. Thompson Accuses Obamacare Opponents of Racism” (Newsmax.com, 4-30-2014); “Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson Blasts Clarence Thomas as ‘Uncle Tom’” (Washington Times, 4-30-2014); “Democrat Didn’t Fire Top Staffer … for Tax Evasion Conviction” (Daily Caller, 10-19-2017); “Black Caucus Members Refuse to Denounce Hate Group Leader Louis Farrakhan” (Daily Caller, 2-7-2018); “Dem Rep. Bennie Thompson: ‘It’s an Insult’ Trump Only Spent 2 Minutes at MLK Statue” (Breitbart.com, 4-21-2019).