Local Politics

NAACP: GOP Ad Inserts 'Racist Sentiments' Into Election

Posted April 25, 2008 2:16 p.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2008 6:26 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina branch of the NAACP said Friday a state Republican Party advertisement that includes a clip of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's former pastor is racially divisive.

The state GOP produced the ad to criticize Democratic gubernatorial candidates Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore for endorsing Obama. The ad calls the presidential candidate "too extreme for North Carolina" and shows a clip of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor in Chicago, making critical comments about the U.S.

Obama has denounced the remarks, calling them divisive, and the NAACP said the ad takes Wright's words out of context in an effort to smear the black community.

"It's a fundamentally race-baiting ad," said Rev. William Barber, state NAACP President. "It's a not so subtle attempt to smear not only black culture (and) the black church, but (also) prophetic ministers and to insert racist sentiments into the electoral process."

Republican presidential candidate John McCain and other prominent members of the national party have demanded that the state GOP pull the ad, which McCain called "offensive." But the state party plans to begin airing the ad Monday.

Barber compared the ad to a media campaign in 1898, when several state newspapers distributed racist political cartoons and published stories focusing on black community crimes.

The campaign preceded race riots in Wilmington that resulted in white supremacists overthrowing the local black government in the nation's only recorded coup d'etat. The conflict left dozens of blacks dead and ushered in a new political era in the Jim Crow South.

Barber said the upcoming primary should focus on issues like education, health care and the economy.

"This is 2008, not 1898," he said. "Race-baiting has long been the last resort of politicians who have racially divided North Carolinians to get elected."

Barber also likened the ad to former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms' infamous 1990 spot that showed a white man crumpling a rejection letter while a narrator said the job had been given to a minority because of racial quotas. Helms won that election over former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, who is black.

State GOP Chairwoman Linda Daves said the ad is completely factual and accused Democrats of trying to inject the race issue into the discussion.

"This tactic, designed to further drive a wedge between the people of North Carolina, is despicable and wrong," Daves said in a statement. "This ad has absolutely nothing to do with race."

Party Executive Director Chris McClure echoed Daves.

"This ad is not about race. We have said that from Day 1. The Democrats are making it about race to avoid the important questions that are being asked," McClure said.

North Carolina GOP spokesman Brent Woodcox said donors have responded by sending money to the party to help air the spot.

"(Donations) have been pouring in so quickly we can't keep up with them," Woodcox said. He said the total was still being tallied.

Bob Orr, the only Republican candidate for governor to publicly oppose the ad, said the message hurts the party, and he asked officials to withdraw it.

"I do think the Democrats want to try and tar the party with the racism message, so I think they're overreacting in that respect," Orr said. "But it's just the wrong ad, the wrong message, the wrong time."