A panel at the Conservative Political Action Committee on Republican minority outreach exploded into controversy on Friday afternoon, after an audience member defended slavery as good for African-Americans.
The exchange occurred after an audience member from North Carolina, 30-year-old Scott Terry, asked whether Republicans could endorse races remaining separate but equal. After the presenter, K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans, answered by referencing a letter by Frederick Douglass forgiving his former master, the audience member said “For what? For feeding him and housing him?” Several people in the audience cheered and applauded Terry’s outburst.
After the exchange, Terry muttered under his breath, “why can’t we just have segregation?” noting the Constitution’s protections for freedom of association.
ThinkProgress spoke with Terry, who sported a Rick Santorum sticker and attended CPAC with a friend who wore a Confederate Flag-emblazoned t-shirt, about his views after the panel. Terry maintained that white people have been “systematically disenfranchised” by federal legislation.
When asked by ThinkProgress if he’d accept a society where African-Americans were permanently subservient to whites, he said “I’d be fine with that.” He also claimed that African-Americans “should be allowed to vote in Africa,” and that “all the Tea Parties” were concerned with the same racial problems that he was.
At one point, a woman challenged him on the Republican Party’s roots, to which Terry responded, “I didn’t know the legacy of the Republican Party included women correcting men in public.”
He claimed to be a direct descendent of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The panel continued to be racked in controversy, as an African-American audience member repeatedly challenged the racism on display at this event. CPAC is the marquee conservative conference of the year, with speakers ranging from former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney to Senator Marco Rubio.
UpdateK. Carl Smith, the panelist from Fredrick Douglass Republicans, released a statement following the media storm related to the racist outburst in his panel. Astonishingly, he reserves the brunt of his criticism for the female reporter who raised objections to the comments being made in the room:
I was invited by the Tea Party Patriots to conduct a breakout session entitled: “Trump The Race Card” and share the Frederick Douglass Republican Message. In the middle of my delivery, while discussing the 1848 “Women’s Rights Convention,” I was rudely interrupted by a woman working for the Voice of Russia. She abruptly asked me: “How many black women were there?” This question was intentionally disruptive and coercive with no way of creating a positive dialogue.
In addition, a young man who wasn’t a Tea Party Patriot, made some racially insensitive comments, he said: “Blacks should be happy that the slave master gave them shelter, clothing, and food.” At the conclusion of the breakout session, I further explained to him the Frederick Douglass Republican Message which he embraced, bought a book, and we left as friends.