Raleigh, N.C. — An eastern North Carolina lawmaker is standing behind his characterization of the NAACP and its state president as racist.
Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, sent a May 14 e-mail to the NAACP, in response to an announcement from the group about a Greenville news conference to protest budget cuts proposed by Republican lawmakers.
The announcement read, in part, "Tea Party extremists seized the Republican Party and declared war on African Americans, poor people and other minorities."
"I have no interest in receiving anything from a Racist such as William Barber," LaRoque wrote in his reply, referring to the state president for the NAACP. "He and the NC NAACP represent everything that is wrong with race relations in our state and country. You should be ashamed of yourself for continuing to promote racism but that is the modern day legacy of the NAACP as a racist organization led by Racist individuals who are Cowards."
Barber said Friday that he was shocked by the comments, but LaRoque said he has no intention on backing off.
"I'm sick of getting these race-baiting, racist-type action alerts, e-mails, whatever you want to call them," LaRoque said in an interview at his Kinston office. "The modern-day NAACP promotes racism. That's what they're doing. They're stirring the racial pot. It's where they get their funding. It's how they get their influence."
Barber said he's raising awareness and fighting to stop what he calls a frontal attack on civil rights, economic justice and education. He and several others were arrested Tuesday during an outburst at the General Assembly.
"He's willing to go in and disrupt the House of Representatives? How dare he? Who does he think he is?" LaRoque said. "It's time for North Carolinians to shun this type of individual."
Barber said he has no interest in engaging in "the politics of yesterday." He said he would continue working to find common ground on the budget and that he plans to pray for LaRoque.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger neither condoned or condemned LaRoque's e-mail when asked about it, but he said his colleague could have expressed his feelings without resorting to name-calling.
"I think many times people will talk about particular issues, and they probably articulate themselves in ways that are not helpful to the overall discussion. I would say that fits within that characterization," Berger said.