Sen. David Perdue made a really dumb joke on Friday, one that could be read as him wishing for the death of President Barack Obama. Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, the Georgia senator told attendees, “We should pray for [Obama] like Psalms 109:8 says: May his days be short and let another have his office.”
As the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff reported, the psalm mentioned in Perdue’s joke is not so much “ha-ha” funny, as it is “our-political-discourse-is-now-so-frightfully-awful” funny:
The rest of that passage, which Perdue did not recite, reads, “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.”
The psalm is a pointed, lengthy death wish for one of David’s enemies.
“Let the creditor seize all that he has, and let strangers plunder his labor. Let there be none to extend mercy to him, nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off, and in the generation following let their name be blotted out,” it continues.
As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted on Twitter, the “Let his days be few; and let another take his office” version of the psalm was an anti-Obama meme that goes back to at least 2009 not long after the president took office.
In reporting on the slogan’s original moment, the Christian Science Monitor noted that the modified psalm—which appeared on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and hats—didn’t necessarily mean people wanted Obama dead. They just maybe wanted his time in office to be short, because of, say, impeachment or losing his re-election.
With Obama facing no more re-election campaigns and exiting office in a little more than seven months, it’s hard to get at what Perdue was seeking with his joke prayer.
Spokespeople for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid immediately criticized the joke.
“Republican Senator David Perdue is praying for President Obama to die. This is why Trump is the GOP nominee,” Reid’s deputy chief of staff Adam Jentleson wrote on Twitter.
Perdue spokeswoman Caroline Vanvick said that the senator was not wishing Obama harm with the message.
“Senator Perdue said we are called to pray for our country, for our leaders, and for our president,” she said. “He in no way wishes harm towards our president and everyone in the room understood that. However, we should add the media to our prayer list because they are pushing a narrative to create controversy and that is exactly what the American people are tired of.”
Again, the real version of the prayer goes like this: “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.”
Nice jokey joke!