Most of the news from last month’s NC Republican Party Convention in Raleigh was about the election of the party’s first African-American Chairman, Hassan Harnett from Harrisburg, who won the post over a candidate supported by the state’s top elected officials including Gov. Pat McCrory, Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, state House Speaker Tim Moore, and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.
Harnett was quickly congratulated by McCrory and the rest of the elected power-brokers leading to the other news from the convention that party leaders wanted to emphasize, that despite the rejection of the party establishment candidate for chair, the party was united for the 2016 election, etc.
But then this week, a new story emerged, one first missed or ignored by the reporters on the scene and never mentioned by McCrory or Tillis or any another top official who attended.
Donald Trump, now a Republican candidate for president, made the same racist remarks about Mexican immigrants in Raleigh that he made 10 days later in New York in his rambling official announcement of his candidacy.
Trump was one of the keynote speakers at the state convention June 6, addressing a dinner where presumably McCrory, Tillis, Berger, etc. were part of the audience. The News & Observer reported this week that Trump told the crowd that the immigrants crossing the border from Mexico were not the “country’s best” and included killers and rapists.
When Trump made the same offensive remarks in New York, a firestorm ensued with networks announcing they would no longer air beauty contests that Trump presents, ESPN shifting a golf tournament away from a Trump golf course and NASCAR moving its banquet away from a Trump-owned property.
Trump’s racist comments in New York were national news. Trump’s racist comments in Raleigh didn’t even garner a mention until a month later and no top state Republicans have mentioned them or been asked for their reactions since.
Somebody needs to ask McCrory, Tillis, Moore and Berger what they think of the keynote speaker invited to their party convention calling immigrants from Mexico killers and rapists.
It’s not a shock that Trump made ridiculous statements. That’s his shtick after all. He was a leader in the birther movement that absurdly challenged President Obama’s birth certificate and eligibility to be president.
And this wasn’t Trump’s his first appearance at an NC GOP convention. He spoke at last year’s convention too, held appropriately enough at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Apparently Republicans couldn’t get enough of Trump and brought him back this year.
Trump’s bigoted comments make you wonder how offensive he would have to be before McCrory or another top Republican would say enough and distance themselves from his racist views.
But North Carolina Republicans are used to cozying up to extremists and not just to sell tickets to a convention.
Two years ago at a rally outside the Legislative Building on the session’s opening day, leaders of radical tea party groups urged state lawmakers to “honor their oath” and nullify the Affordable Care Act, that is ignore a federal law based on a states’ right claim that would have made George Wallace proud.
Several state legislators addressed the crowd, as did then N.C. GOP Chair Robin Hayes who praised the event’s organizers. The rally garnered little media attention even though it featured elected officials and the head of a major political party endorsing a call for North Carolina to refuse to obey the federal government of the United States.
If it’s true that you are known by the company you keep—and the folks you invite to town as your honored guest—Republicans leaders have some explaining to do.
Do they agree with Trump’s bigotry or not?
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of NC Policy Watch.