Dear NRA: Putting KKK Hoods on Beloved Childhood Characters Probably Isn’t the Best Strategy

Nobody ever said Thomas the Tank Engine was a racist. Geez.


Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The producers of Thomas the Tank Engine’s decades-old hit television show recently made Thomas & Friends more modern. They changed the theme song and brought in new female characters, including Nia, a train from Kenya created in cahoots with the UN. “Through Nia, we’re able to see an African character really taking a leadership role as a female engine with lots of strong values and goals, herself,” Women’s Africa program adviser Tolulope Lewis-Tamoka told CBS News.

But over at Relentless, a show on NRATV—the TV channel of the National Rifle Association—NRA spokesman Dana Loesch didn’t see why Thomas & Friends needed ethnic diversity. After all, Thomas and his friends are gray and blue. 

“How do you bring ethnic diversity? I mean they had to paint, what I guess they thought was some sort of African pattern on the side of Nia’s engine?” Loesch says in a video clip shared by Media Matters. “How do you bring ethnic diversity to a show that literally has no ethnicities because they’re trains. They don’t even have skin pigmentation. Was there some concern that the show had racist undertones? ”

The segment then cuts to Thomas and his friends riding on flaming tracks and wearing white KKK hoods. “I get it. Thomas the Tank Engine has been a blight on race relations for far too long,” Loesch told viewers. “Clearly this is overdue, right? Seriously, with trains?”



Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend