The latest handwringing by Republicans over comments made by state House Caucus chair Mike Turner that opposition to health care reform (and President Obama in general) is racially motivated has sparked a biting retort from a fellow Democrat who has not always been an ally. Minority Leader Gary Odom, who has often been on the outs with the Caucus Chair, stood up for him in a big way. Not only does Odom stand behind Turner's comments, he offers a rebuttal listing the somewhat unsavory recent history of the TNGOP and race:
I believe that Chairman Turner’s comments were intentionally taken out of context for the purpose of political grandstanding. Chairman Turner stated his personal belief that there are some who oppose our President because of his race. I find it remarkable that House Republicans would condemn the use of racial overtones in political debate, when you consider recent Republican activities in our state and our country. The following examples of Republican political activities in our state should never be forgotten: 1. Putting a picture of former Rep. Nathan Vaughn and President Obama in a Republican-funded mail piece, which depicted them as blackbirds in the 2008 House of Representatives election in District 2. 2. Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman sending out Christmas music entitled “Barack the Magic Negro.” 3. Former state Republican Press Secretary Bill Hobbs inferring President Obama is a Muslim by depicting him in traditional African attire and calling his supporters anti-Semites. 4. House Republicans, including the House Republican Caucus Chair, openly signing on as plaintiffs in a frivolous lawsuit questioning whether the president is a citizen of the United States of America. 5. A Republican Senate staff person that sent out a photo composite that pictured all of the U.S. presidents but depicted President Obama in a black background with only two white eyes. She was not terminated for this action. 6. Recent activities in our nation’s Capital where African-American members of Congress were spat on and subjected to the “N-word.” Following a House Republican Press conference, Mr. Chris Devaney, Chair of the Tennessee Republican Party said in a letter to Chairman Forrester: “I think that … comments about race have no place in a healthy political debate.” House Democrats agree.PREVIOUSLY: Turner's original comments with video. SEE ALSO: Tiny Cat Pants Speak To Power
Mar 23, 2010 3:36 PM
Rep. Mike Turner goes ahead and adds a bit of insult to the injury some Republicans are feeling:
"All I said was some people are against Obama because he's African American. That's all I said. If that strikes a little too close for comfort for them, that's not my fault. They need to have a little self-soul searching on that. This is a party that hasn't had a real initiative since the Emancipation Proclamation. They're the party of no. And they're trying to make me the bad guy in this. If they're having a hard time sleeping at night, it's not my problem. They need to go talk to their priest or their preacher about that."
Mar 23, 2010 1:49 PM
From a presser:
House Majority Leader Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol) and House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada (R-Franklin) today called on House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville) to apologize for his statements calling Tennesseans who oppose President Obama’s federal government takeover of healthcare racists. Mumpower and Casada held a press conference in Nashville to express their outrage and called on all Democrats in Tennessee to denounce Turner’s statements. On Monday Chairman Mike Turner was quoted as saying Tennesseans who are opposed to the federal government takeover of healthcare are “against Obama because he’s African-American.” “I’ve heard from countless citizens who are opposed to Obamacare and it isn’t because they are racists. For the Democrats to call racist anyone who opposes an out of control federal government from taking over their healthcare, that is offensive and out of line,” said Mumpower. “Clearly, they are devoid of ideas and are resorting to name-calling.” “We saw it in the last election and I’m sure we’ll see it throughout the election campaigns this fall,” said Casada. “When conservative candidates oppose Obama and big federal government, all the Democrats know to do is wag their fingers in our faces and call us racists.” Over 1.5 million Tennesseans voted against Obama in November 2008, and the overwhelming majority of Tennesseans today oppose the massive federal bailout and outrageous federal takeover of healthcare. Mumpower and Casada said the purpose of their outrage today was to defend all Tennesseans who on principle oppose Obama’s takeover of healthcare against Turner’s charge of racism.SEE ALSO: TNReport Jeff Woods
Mar 23, 2010 1:40 PM
Chris Devaney sends a "chairman to chairman" letter out this dustup right here:
While you and I have a respectful difference of opinion on the role the federal government should play in Americans’ lives, I think that you would agree these comments about race have no place in a healthy political debate. Rep. Turner’s remarks are uninformed and misguided. It is my hope that you will immediately ask Rep. Turner to apologize for his personal attacks on the vast number of Tennesseans who do not agree with his Democratic Party’s agenda for our country.SEE ALSO: Humphrey Betsy Phillips
Mar 23, 2010 12:38 PM
On Saturday, it was the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau pulling their contract with Walt Baker's marketing firm Mercatus Communications. Today, Baker has officially lost his position as CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association. The action comes after a firestorm erupted when it was revealed that Baker had sent an email to a small group of prominent Nashvillians comparing Michelle Obama to Tarzan's chimpanzee, Cheeta. From a press release:
The Executive Committees of the Tennessee Hospitality Association (THA) and Greater Nashville Hospitality Association (GNHA) have voted unanimously to terminate the contract with Mercatus Communications and its Principal, Walt Baker, effective immediately. Together, the state and local hospitality associations jointly express disagreement with the inappropriate email sent by Walt Baker on March 4, 2010. Bill Mish, President of the board of the Tennessee Hospitality Association, stated: “Today we have terminated Mercatus Communications, and its Principal, Walt Baker, as CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association. Walt’s email reflects a deep misunderstanding of the nature of hospitality and our role as an association. His email was sent in his personal capacity and not in his connection with the hospitality associations.” Pete Weien, President of the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association stated: “Diversity has always been a high priority in the hospitality industry. The email sent by Mr. Baker does not reflect the positive initiatives we have undertaken as an industry and organization, and therefore we are terminating our relationship with Mercatus and Walt Baker.” American Hotel and Lodging Association board member Tom Negri stated: “The email sent by Mr. Baker is unacceptable and upsetting, both personally and professionally. It is not who we are as a hospitality organization and it fails to reflect that our industry is one of the most diverse industries in the state of Tennessee and, in fact, our country.” Shannon Bowles, incoming president of the THA, stated: “THA and GNHA have long been champions of diversity and inclusion. This email by Mr. Baker does not reflect the views of our associations, and it runs completely counter to our work of advancing the lives and enjoyment of citizens from throughout the world. Each day, our hotels and restaurants welcome visitors from across the globe. Our employees come from all walks of life. We continue to stand by our mission of diversity and inclusion, and we strongly disavow any efforts that conflict with this.” Mish stated: “The THA and GNHA will continue to move forward with our mission of welcoming people of all backgrounds. As leaders in hospitality, we are proud of what diversity brings to our team members and our guests: understanding – the understanding that our differences bring us together not only in work, but also community.”This episode, which has made both national and international news, marks the most recent case of Tennesseans getting in jackpots over racially-charged communications. Former TNGOP spokesman Bill Hobbs, during the campaign of 2008, sent out an inflammatory press release referring to the now President of the United States by his middle name "Hussein" and included a picture of Obama dressed in native Somali garb. Hobbs was roundly rebuked by both Republicans and Democrats for the release. In late 2008, in a bid to become chairman of the RNC, Republican operative Chip Saltsman made news for giving out copies of a CD containing the single, "Barack the Magic Negro." In 2009, a legislative aide to Republican state Sen. Diane Black sent out an email featuring a collage of the nation's pas presidents. In the spot designated for Barack Obama only two white eyes peering out of a black background could be seen. UPDATE: Baker's parter, Phil Martin, will be leaving Mercatus:
Martin said Mercatus landed the contract with what was then called the Tennessee Hotel and Motel Association more than 12 years ago. “He has in essence thrown away a 30-year career in this business, and he has effectively killed this business,” Martin said. “I’ll be leaving Mercatus. ... Effectively, there is no confidence or trust left in that entity, and I understand why.” Martin said he is working on a transition plan for the clients he has outstanding obligations to. Baker handled hospitality related contracts for the firm while Martin worked with businesses in other industries.
Mar 8, 2010 5:05 PM
Albie Del Favero, the man who turned the Nashville Scene from shopper to alt-weekly and a former publisher of the Nashville City Paper, takes to the comments of Pith in the Wind to defend Hospitality Association CEO Walt Baker against charges of racism:
I feel compelled to weigh in here as a friend of Walt's and a recipient of the e-mail. And yes, SB, to give my friend Walt some cover. Racism involves prejudice or discrimination or implies superiority of one race over another. This cartoon is considered “racist” only because we have been conditioned to believe that any comparison of African-Americans to monkees or apes,no matter how innocent the intent, is automatically an issue of comparative intelligence. If this photo comparison were part of a group of photos of other folks, black and white, with facial expressions that mimic animals, it would be funny and much less likely to be considered racist (although that would never happen because of our heightened racial sensitivity.) But the point here should be whether Walt Baker is a racist. He is not. He may have done something stupid but he is not a racist. And Liz, you're an excellent journalist, and I'd like to know if you have any second thoughts on whether this was newsworthy? (If Dwight Lewis weighs in on the subject tomorrow, we'll know it's not.) And, by the way, what happened to the days when the Scene toppled real douchebags like David Stringfield? Finally, Wee Davey, please don’t expect me to believe that in your 25 years in Arizona, you never heard an unkind word about Mexicans.As reported on Friday by Liz Garrigan and picked up today by the Tennessean and the AP, Baker forwarded an email to a few prominent Nashvillians which compares Michelle Obama to a monkey. The email, which was sent to people he viewed as friends, can be seen here. Baker's most recent mea culpa can be seen here. UPDATE: Butch Spyridon announces that the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau has terminated its contract with Baker's marketing agency. SEE ALSO: Say Uncle Silence Aunt B. WSMV Tennessean Tom Humphrey The New York Daily News From Seattle WKRN
Mar 6, 2010 3:07 PM
Roger Abramson talks directly to those that drove the Sherri Goforth story:
We've been here before. Remember Bill Hobbs back in 2006? A big deal was made in the press about that goofy Muslim cartoon he put on the Internet, his employer (Belmont University) was mentioned in the articles (even though Belmont had nothing to do with that cartoon), putting Belmont in a position where it really had no choice but to save face publicly by giving Hobbs the heave-ho. I remember talking to some folks in the local press back then and getting this general reaction: "Well, that's silly. They shouldn't fire him." As though the press accounts somehow had nothing to do with it; as though Belmont was just sitting around and just up and arbitrarily decided to can him. It's like someone shooting a guy in the head and being surprised that they fall over dead. "Well, I'll be damned. He died just like that. Huh. Never saw that coming." The probable outcome of this episode will be the termination (one way or the other) of Sherri Goforth. So, don't act surprised. And don't act like you had nothing to do with it. Own it. Hell, be proud of it, the "greater good" and all of that.
Jun 17, 2009 12:53 PM
I mean, don't get it twisted I do some dirt, too, but I ain't never put my gun on nobody who wasn't in the game. ~ Omar Devon LittleI've been getting many inquiries and much static, from just about all quarters, for my handling of the Sherri Goforth story. I've gotten emails. I've gotten phone calls. And, clearly, more than a few blog comments asking me just why exactly "The Story" didn't show up on Post Politics until after business hours yesterday when it had been the buzz of the blogosphere for hours and hours. Was it because I was in the pocket of the Republicans? Was because I was covering for a "fellow racist"? Was I jealous because the Scene got to it before me? Was the rumor true that I had the email weeks ago and failed to post on it? First of all, I don't make a lot of distinction personally between "new" and "old" media, professional and amateur journalism in this area. I try to be very conscientious about noting where I come across the links, news and commentary posted here and I don't much care who the source is. If it is a blogger, I link. If it is the Tennessean, I link. This story was broken by Trace Sharp where I saw the story early in the morning. The distinction belongs to her and her alone. If I were to be "jealous" of anyone it would be her because she was first. She is a serious blogger and a journalist. The Scene or any subsequent outlet who picked up on it would not affect my "editorial" judgment, as it were. It's actually a silly accusation because while you will find original journalism on this blog most of what I do here is aggregation. I post stories from the Scene, the Tennessean, just about everywhere. This wasn't about the source or the competition, this was about the content. It was about the story itself. I didn't believe it was one. I still don't. Post Politics received the email in question on June 1, 2009. It was forwarded to me just, as I imagine, it was to Trace Sharp. I made some inquiries into the matter. I ultimately decided not to run with it. Why? It's quite simple really. Sherri Goforth is a civilian. She is not a blogger. She is not a politician. She is not an operative. She is, essentially, a secretary. A secretary in the legislature for 20 years. Now the email she sent was indefensible. I don't defend it. I will not defend it. It is authentically racist -- and I'm not even one who likes to throw that word around. In my inquiries I found that Goforth had forwarded an email which was immediately recalled and deleted. Goforth was reprimanded and a letter was placed in her file. The email was, and I did look into this as well, the only email of this nature that Goforth had sent that anyone, my original source as well as others, could produce. There was no pattern of racist behavior in the workplace I could find and sanctions had already been taken against her. Now, I'm not unfamiliar with how these things work. Had I gone with the story, what has now happened, would have happened. A career state employee would have her name on CNN and the AP wire. Calls for her termination would commence from people with an ax to grind and a political agenda to advance. She would in all likelihood be fired or asked to resign, if not immediately then after session was over. Now, I have put people's mess in the street before -- Republicans and Democrats. But as far as I can remember, it has always been politicians, operatives and bloggers that I have pulled the trigger on. Have I linked to media reports which mentioned regular citizens by name before? Probably. But, frankly, after making inquiries and coming to the conclusion that I did, I just didn't feel like piling on yesterday. Was that a mistake? According to many of you who value this website, it was. I understand that. This blog, after all, is an amalgamation of the news, chatter and commentary going on in Tennessee politics. Yesterday, today and likely for the rest of this week, Sherri Goforth is "The Big Thing." Everyone was and will be talking about it. Regardless of my personal feelings about pulling the trigger initially, was it my job to ride to the sound of guns once the game was on? I don't know. If it was, it was a part of my job that I didn't like, and like many employees I elected to put it off until it could no longer be put off. As Trace Sharpe herself likes to say, I'll own that. Now anyone who knows me knows that pageviews are more dear to me than anything. I have little love for either ideologies or political parties. But if I did, those loves would never trump that which I have for web traffic. It's what has kept me employed for as long as I have doing something I truly love. I would never, not for one second, sacrifice pageviews to defend a political party. I sacrificed them because I didn't believe the story was news. I sacrificed them because Sherri Goforth is a working woman. She has not put herself up for office, she is not crafting messages or legislation. She is not a political operator. If some of the folks who received the email had sent it rather than received it, it would have been different. But that wasn't the case. The legislature is not Congress. Not everyone who works there is working on bills, legislation and other "Real Important Business." Some folks who work there are just glorified secretaries. That is what Sherri Goforth is, no offense intended. All this hullabaloo, in the final analysis, is over a secretary who forwarded an email from one of her white trash friends. That's what this is. That's all this is. Yes, her email does fit superficially into an ongoing narrative of the TNGOP as an organization right around the edge (which side of the line is a matter of opinion) of the line of racial propriety. As such, I see how it could be interpreted as news. But that's not the reality. Sherri Goforth is not Chip Saltsman. She is not Bill Hobbs. She is not Robin Smith. She ain't even Scott Gilmer. She's not a player in game. In my mind, it would be akin to an infantryman shooting a enemy army cook in the back of the head. I had the ammo, I took aim, but I viewed my potential victim as a civilian and I held my fire. That's what happened.
Jun 16, 2009 3:35 PM
The Tennessee Democratic Party Chair has called for the head of a legislative staffer who sent an incendiary email featuring some of that old-timey racism. The presser in full:
Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Chip Forrester denounced an email sent out by Republican staffer Sherri Goforth depicting Barack Obama as two eyes peering out of a black background."Is this indicative of what Senate Republicans think about our Commander-in-Chief?" Forrester asked. "This email is reprehensible, insults the office of the President, and is embarrassing to all Tennesseans regardless of political party." Sen. Diane Black's staffer sent an email with an attached collage of traditional presidential portraits, except that President Obama was depicted as two eyes peering from a black background."When I ran for Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, I said that no longer would our Party sit idly by and allow Republicans to make bigoted attacks on Democrats in our state and our country. Well, once again, a Tennessee Republican has earned national attention for a racist, hate-filled attack on our President," Forrester said. Unfortunately, Sherri Goforth's email joins the list of shameful episodes by Tennessee Republicans, from the infamous "Birds of a Feather" (PDF) direct mail piece that featured black crows with the heads of Barack Obama and Rep. Nathan Vaughn (who is also African-American), to the "Barack the Magic Negro" song that former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman sent to RNC members during his failed campaign for RNC chair. Since her aide's email has come to light, Sen. Black, the chair of the House Republican Caucus, has merely reprimanded Goforth. "I am calling on Sen. Black to reject this racist smear and fire this staffer who, on state government time, on state government computers, using a state government email account, launched this bigoted attack on our president," Forrester said. "Keeping her on the staff would send the message that this type of behavior is condoned by the House Republican Caucus." "Ms. Goforth does not seem to understand what she did wrong. She has apologized for 'sending [the email] to the wrong list of people.' I believe that any list of people would have recognized this email as offensive and hateful. The fact that a state employee would not understand that indicates that she is not fit for employment by the state of Tennessee." "We have hundreds of state employees facing the possibility of losing their jobs due to the budget deficit and no fault of their own. I think we could save at least one of those jobs by firing Sherri Goforth." MORE ON THIS DEVELOPING STORY: Newscoma Silence Hannan Grantham Humphrey Cracker GoldnI Atlantic Wonkette Sandy Mancini FirestormJun 15, 2009 5:33 PM|