Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) came under fire Monday after posting a message on Twitter that compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the monkey the Iranian government claims it launched into space last week.
On Monday, Ahmadinejad announced that he wants to be the first Iranian astronaut sent into space, saying he was willing to risk his life for the mission, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
"I am ready to be the first human to be sent to space by Iranian scientists," Ahmadinejad said on Monday,
"Sending living things into space is the result of Iranian efforts and the dedication of thousands of Iranian scientists," he added, according to the Mehr news agency.
“So Ahmadinejad wants to be first Iranian in space - wasn't he just there last week?” McCain tweeted, citing a recent Yahoo News story: “Iran launches monkey into space.”
The message, which was retweeted more than 2,000 times, quickly received criticism, with many calling the senator’s comment “racist.”
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a second-generation Arab-American who father is a “Palestinian” business owner, tweeting, “Maybe you should wisen up & not make racist jokes.”
McCain posted a follow-up tweet, maintaining that the message was meant to be lighthearted.
“Re: Iran space tweet - lighten up folks, can’t everyone take a joke?” McCain wrote.
The launch, which was hailed by Iranian officials as a major accomplishment towards their goal of sending humans into space, added to Western concerns regarding the regime’s space program because the same rocket technology could potentially be used to deliver a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.
The announcement stirred speculations regarding the validity of the information, as news agencies noted differences between official images of the primate before takeoff and after landing.