Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., speaks during a news conference on Feb. 26, 2014.
Photo by Bill Clark/Getty

A big step backward for the GOP’s African-American outreach

After the 2012 elections, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus made a concerted effort to overhaul his party’s outreach to the African-American community. He couldn’t offer much in the way of substance, and he couldn’t point to any policy shifts in his party’s agenda, but Priebus nevertheless showed real effort, hoping to make new inroads among black voters.

As of last night, it became hard not to imagine Priebus watching the news and smacking his forehead.

Let’s put aside, at least for now, the latest missteps on race from the Republican presidential nominee and his running mate, and instead focus on some other GOP officials who made headlines over the last 24 hours for their own racially charged rhetoric.

In Ohio, for example, Kathy Miller, a county chair for the Trump campaign, told The Guardian there was “no racism” during the 1960s; the Black Lives Matter movement is “stupid”; and there was no racism in the United States “until Obama got elected.” She added, “If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you…. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.”

Miller resigned her post yesterday afternoon, right around the time Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) shared some thoughts of his own about race during a BBC interview.
“The grievance in their mind is the animus, the anger,” Pittenger told the program, referring to the protesters in Charlotte. “They hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

The comments sparked an immediate backlash, with fellow North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield – a Democrat – calling the remarks “disgusting” and “appalling.”
On Twitter, the far-right Republican congressman expressed “regret” for his on-air comments, saying they didn’t “reflect” his true beliefs. “My intent was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African Americans because of failed policies,” Pittenger said, adding, “I apologize to those I offended.”

Hmm. So the congressman was trying to condemn progressive investments in struggling communities, and he somehow ended up saying protesters in Charlotte “hate white people because white people are successful.”

On CNN, Pittenger added, “I was only trying to convey what [protesters] were saying, and yet it didn’t come out right.”

He went on to say,  ”I have many, many dear friends in the African-American community … and my colleagues in the United States Congress.”

And the Republican Party’s outreach efforts to African Americans take another big step backward.

Racism and Robert Pittenger

A big step backward for the GOP's African-American outreach