On Viral Portrait, Bobby Jindal Channels Richard Pryor: ‘You Mean I’m Not White?’

PHOTO: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at a breakfast in Washington, Feb. 9, 2015. PlayMichael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal had a pithy response to a widely circulated portrait of him that made his skin tone look white -– and quickly turned it into an attack on liberals whom he said are “obsessed with race.”

“You mean I’m not white?” Jindal, who is Indian-American, said at a breakfast session organized by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington, D.C.

The line was famously uttered by Richard Pryor in the 1989 film, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,” where Pryor played a blind man opposite Gene Wilder.

The portrait in question, which currently hangs in the capitol building in Baton Rouge, was tweeted by a liberal blogger in Louisiana last week. It went viral online, even though -– as Jindal’s chief of staff pointed out -– it’s not the governor’s “official” state portrait.

Jindal said today he doesn't recall even having met the artist: "The painting in question is owned by a constituent. It will go back to the constituent."

Jindal, who said he will make up his mind on running for president in 2016 “in the next few months,” also suggested that liberals were behind mockery of him and the portrait.

“I think this whole thing is silly. I think the left is obsessed with race,” he said. “I think the dumbest thing we can do is to try to divide people by the color of their skin. The left is devoid of ideas and this is unfortunately what they’re resorted to – name-calling…. This is nonsense. We’re all Americans.”

Jindal declined to say whether he agreed with his chief of staff, Kyle Plotkin, who took to Twitter in response to the liberal blogger that focusing on skin color in the portrait amounted to "race-baiting."

The governor said he didn't read the tweets written by Plotkin or others. But he did give reporters blanket permission to describe his ethnicity as they see fit.

"You're more than welcome to put in every article about me that I'm not white. It really doesn't bother me," he said.

Jindal also used the appearance to square up against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the issue of education. Bush is a champion of the Common Cause education standards, something Jindal initially supported but that he has now come out strongly against, as the federal government sought a greater role in seeing the standards adopted by states.

Jindal said he looks forward to a campaign where Bush and others articulate their views on education for primary voters.

“If Republican voters want to vote for a candidate who supports common core, I suspect they’ll have that option, or several options,” Jindal said. “Do we trust bureaucrats, or do we trust parents? I trust parents.”