Rev. Barber's comments draw national (negative) attention

Posted by Craig Jarvis and Jim Morrill on January 22, 2014 

UPDATED

Rev. William Barber II, executive director of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, drew some negative national attention over comments he made over the weekend in South Carolina. He was not backing down on Wednesday.

“A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy,” Barber told The State newspaper of Columbia during an appearance there. “The extreme right wing down here (in South Carolina) finds a black guy to be senator and claims he’s the first black senator since Reconstruction and then he goes to Washington, D.C., and articulates the agenda of the Tea Party.”

The comment, aimed at U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate's only African-American Republican, generated a fair amount of criticism. Scott told Fox News' Megyn Kelly Tuesday that he was the target of “philosophical bigotry.”

“What we’re hearing is baseless rhetoric about the same old things that have not worked so far," Scott said. “We’ve had a 50-year war led by the government on poverty, and it hasn’t taken people out... In this country, conservatives, free market capitalism, produces greater success than the government can ever do.”

Barber's remark was picked up across the country. The N.C. GOP on Wednesday released samples of that reaction in a news release headlined, "America meets Rev. William Barber."

Barber made the comments in Columbia when he spoke against what he called the dangers of Republican "right-wing extremism" on issues such as voting, health care, environment and education.

Asked if he stood by his comments, on Wednesday, Barber issued this statement:

“To honor the tradition of Dr. King is to honor his call to elected leaders to promote equality, voting rights, education, labor rights, equal protection under law, and healthcare. Dr. King emphasized love and justice rather than extremism. Unless we stand for justice, we cannot claim allegiance to or pay homage to Dr. King. Democrat or Republican, Tea Party or no Party, we need to talk about what’s right versus what’s wrong. Who is anybody speaking for regardless of party or color if you support extreme policies. What establishes justice or undermines justice. This is a critique that must be offered for all people, regardless of skin color.

“In a state such as South Carolina, where 250,000 people will be denied access to Medicaid, where there is still a corridor of shame in public education, where the confederate flag still flies at the State Capital and where attempts to suppress the vote continue, politicians, whether they be black or white, should not be echoing the position of the far right. They should be standing up and fighting for those whom Jesus himself called the least of these. The indignation should not be over a metaphor but instead righteous indignation over the misery being caused by extreme policies.

“Moreover, we cannot allow people to get away with voicing a shallow commitment to King yet abandon the fight for the least of these and ignoring the cry for freedom, love and justice.”

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