It’s been a rough week for Republicans trying to appeal to minority voters in North Carolina.
The effort started out well enough, with the Republican National Committee opening up an African-American outreach center in Charlotte. But the situation quickly turned awkward when reporters started asking the staffers in that office about the new voting law passed in North Carolina this year–the one which civil rights groups have referred to as the “single worst [voter suppression] bill” in years.
North Carolina Republican national committeewoman Ada Fisher told the Washington Post that it wasn’t voter suppression.
“The people who say that haven’t read the bill,” she insisted.
The situation got worse when Don Yelton’s interview aired on The Daily Show aired Wednesday. That’s when we heard the Republican precinct chair from Buncombe County explain that he wasn’t worried that the law might hurt ”a bunch of lazy blacks who want the government to give them everything.”
Party officials did ask Yelton to resign, which he did on Thursday. His response? ”I’ve had enough of their political correctness and their inability to let people say what they think.”
But kicking Yelton out of the party couldn’t fix everything, because not 24 hours later, American Bridge, a pro-Democratic super PAC, released video of Republican North Carolina Rep. Larry Pittman making a “birther” joke about President Obama.
“I just don’t think it’s right at all to call Barack Obama a traitor,” he says in the video. “You know, there’s a lot of things he’s done wrong, but he is not a traitor, at least not as far as I can tell, because I’ve not come across any evidence yet that he has done one thing to harm Kenya.”
But perhaps the most damaging moment came from Gov. Pat McCrory, who decided to attend an event honoring Jesse Helms on Friday evening.
Helms, for those who might have forgotten, is the same man who once called the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.”
The late senator still has plenty of fans in the GOP, even beyond his home state of North Carolina. Ted Cruz recently told a crowd at a Heritage Foundation event, “We need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”
The dueling messages have created a situation that Rev. Sharpton called “almost schizophrenic.” On one hand, Republicans are opening minority outreach centers. Reince Priebus was speaking about the importance of such outreach only seven months ago, but the GOP is still indulging in birther jokes, talk about “lazy blacks,” and celebrations for Jesse Helms.
“[Helms] isn’t most Americans’ idea of progress,” Sharpton said on Friday’s PoliticsNation. “So you can’t claim to be for outreach, and then support this vision for America. Actions speak much louder than words.”