Mark Meadows-Lynne Patton Moment Was Like Slave Auction, Say MSNBC Panelists: It Was 'the Epitome of Racism'

The interaction between Representative Mark Meadows and Lynne Patton in Congress on Wednesday was described by two MSNBC guests as being like a slave auction, as fallout over the moment continues to spread.

Patton, who works for President Donald Trump's administration in the Department for Housing and Urban Development, accompanied Meadows to the House Oversight Committee hearing of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

After Cohen accused Trump of being a racist, North Carolina Republican Meadows asked Patton to stand up, and argued that because she—a black woman—had been hired by Trump, the president could not be a racist.

Meadows came in for immediate criticism for the stunt, with Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib accusing him of using Patton as a prop to support Republican attacks on Cohen in defense of the president.

The congressman dismissed suggestions he had acted in a racist manner, and requested Tlaib's comments be stricken from the record. "There's nothing more personal to me than my relationship—my nieces and nephews are people of color. Not many people know that," he said. "It's racist to suggest that I asked her to come in here for that reason."

Since the hearing, two talk-show panelists have compared the Meadows-Patton moment as reminiscent of the slave trade, describing the supposedly pro-diversity interaction as inherently racist.

On Chris Hayes's All In show on MSNBC Wednesday, guest Danielle Moodie-Mills described Patton as standing on "an auction block" behind Meadows and presenting "the epitome of racism."

"The fact that he thought that was going to be like a 'got you' moment is incredible to me. Incredible," said Moodie-Mills. "Is she the black ambassador for the entire race? Because one person out of his entire cabinet, out of his entire staff, is there as the black person?"

And on Thursday, political strategist Sophia A. Nelson appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe program to add her voice to the criticism of Meadows's controversial maneuver. Nelson also admonished Patton for allowing herself to be used by Republican politicians.

Nelson argued it was important "to put Mark Meadows into context," noting that in 2012 he said President Barack Obama should be sent "back to Kenya." She continued, "So for him to try to say he's not a racist or has racial insensitivity is ridiculous."

"Shame on Lynne, first of all, for agreeing to do it. But to bring a black woman out and have her stand there like she was on the auction block?" said Nelson. She added she was "horrified" and "appalled" that Republicans committee members used Patton as a way to suggest Trump was not a racist, while failing to adequately question Cohen on his allegations.

"She couldn't talk, she couldn't speak, you couldn't swear her in, and there's this visual: 'Exhibit A, American people. There's a black person here. And we have a black person who can't tell you what she thinks. We'll tell you how she feels, and that'll prove that Donald Trump is not a racist' is the most ridiculous thing I've seen the Republican party do in a really long time," Nelson said. "And that is saying a lot."

During his testimony, Cohen said Trump is "a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat." He shared several stories in which the president allegedly said black people were too stupid to vote for him, challenged Cohen to find a country run by a black person that was not a "shithole," and, while driving through a poor area of Chicago, said only black people would be willing to live in such conditions.

On Thursday, Patton went on Fox News to defend herself and Meadows. "What I'd like to ask the congresswoman from Michigan is, you know, why does she take the word of a self-confessed perjurer and criminally convicted white man over a black female who is highly educated, rose up through the ranks of one of the most competitive companies in real estate, spoke before 25 million people at the Republican National Convention and now works in one of the most historic administrations in history?" Patton asked.

"That's more racist than being put up there as a 'prop,'" she claimed.

Updated | This article has been updated to include additional comments from Mark Meadows.

Mark Meadows Lynne Patton racism
Mark Meadows speaks during Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill on February 27. Alex Wong/Getty Images