Marco Rubio is angry because Obama apologized to a professor of art history

This will surely win over the Tea Party before Rubio's big 2016 presidential run!


Elias Isquith
February 19, 2014 9:45PM (UTC)

Earlier this month, while attempting to promote the utility of trade schools, President Barack Obama joked that many people would be better off learning skilled manufacturing than getting a degree in art history.

"I promise you, folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree," Obama said. The president seemed to immediately realize he had committed a (minor) faux pas, however, and quickly added: "Nothing wrong with art history degree ... I love art history." He then joked, " I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody."

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Of course, Obama's attempt to walk back his jab at the earning power of an art history degree was not enough to spare him receiving an email from one professor, University of Texas art historian Ann Collins Johns.

While Johns says her email wasn't an attack on Obama's comments so much as a defense of art history, the president wrote her a handwritten apology all the same (see below). "Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks," Obama wrote. "I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in my life that I might otherwise have missed."

Case closed, right? End of story. Finished. Nothing to see here.

Wrong! Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — who, by the way, is almost certainly running for president in 2016, despite the fact that he's angered the Tea Party by supporting (then abandoning) comprehensive immigration reform — swooped in on Wednesday with a caustic tweet calling Obama's apology "pathetic" and insisting, "We do need more degrees that lead to #jobs."

Of course, nowhere in his letter did the president imply otherwise; this whole thing started because Obama was making the same argument as Rubio, after all! But Rubio (or, more likely, someone on his staff) must have seen a great opportunity to get a few cheap headlines for Florida's junior senator while attacking Obama and pointy-headed art history intellectuals, to boot.

Anyway, you can read Obama's handwritten note to Johns below, via ABC:

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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