GOP, NAACP leaders agree on racial rhetoric

The Associated Press
Friday March 09, 2001

WASHINGTON — NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume and House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Thursday it was time to start discussing differences rather than using them to accuse the other side of racism. 

“The NAACP clearly does not believe that all Republicans are racists or bigots, nor do we believe that all Democrats are saints or saviors,” Mfume said after an hourlong meeting in Armey’s Capitol Hill office.  

“At some point in time, we’ve got to sort of tone down the rhetoric so that we are not disrespecting people.” 

Armey, R-Texas, requested the meeting because of what he said was a recent trend of “racial McCarthyism” or “reverse race-baiting” – inferring racist motives from Republican policies.  

Armey said he was Mfume’s close friend when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president was a congressman from Maryland from 1987 to 1996.  

At their meeting Thursday, Armey said, he spoke to Mfume of “the casualness with which racial allegations are hurled around.”  

He mentioned an NAACP television ad last fall that accused George W. Bush, then the GOP presidential nominee, of callous indifference to the brutal murder by three white men of a black Texan, James Byrd. 

Bush picked up only one of every 10 black votes and found many blacks further alienated because of the handling of the vote count in Florida, where many minorities felt their ballots were ignored, and Bush’s choice of conservative former Sen. John Ashcroft to be attorney general.