Tim Matheson, an actor whose credits include The West Wing and Leave It to Beaver (he’s no spring chicken) tried to poke fun at former First Lady Melania Trump on Twitter the other day.
Of new FLOTUS Dr. Jill Biden, Matheson tweeted, “so wonderful to have a First Lady with class and heart. And, can speak English!”
This resulted in immediate pushback, including accusations of racism. Even liberal Biden supporters were taken aback.
Matheson, though, is known for his leftwing hyperbole. He has called the GOP a “terrorist organization”, for example. There is a certain cosmic justice here, in seeing hyperbole come back to bite Mr. Matheson.
Now, in regard to language: Melania Trump, as most readers will know, was born in the former Yugoslavia. Her first language is not English; and while she speaks English fluently, she speaks it with a foreign accent.
Melania Trump speaks at least five languages altogether. To the best of my knowledge, she speaks Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, German, English, and French.
I’m not sure if poking fun at someone’s language skills is “racist” or not. An accusation of “racism” is, in our present age, the first resort of the small-minded and uncreative debater. I’ll therefore demur in hurling the eye roll-inducing “r-word” at Matheson. But where language skills are concerned, folks who live in glass houses ought not throw stones.
I’ve studied multiple foreign languages and mastered several. (I used to work as a Japanese-language interpreter.) I know how hard it is. Anyone who speaks five languages is linguistically impressive. I don’t know how many languages Tim Matheson speaks. But I would be willing to bet that the number is significantly less than five, and probably no more than one. Enough said.