Spurned Columnists Question Selection Process for Obama Meeting

Some African American columnists from the Trotter Group who were not selected to attend the group's White House meeting with Barack Obama were "disappointed, embarrassed and inconvenienced."

Trotter Group members meet with President Obama and Valerie Jarrett, center, at the White House (Chuck Kennedy, White House).
Trotter Group members meet with President Obama and Valerie Jarrett, center, at the White House (Chuck Kennedy, White House).

Did White House Decide Who Represents Trotter Group?

An attempt by the White House to reach out to the nation’s organization of African American columnists has resulted in anger and resentment on the part of those in the group who were ignored or, worse, disinvited. Some lost money when they made travel arrangements to Washington and then were forced to cancel.

The role of the White House in selecting the interviewers, and whether group representatives were complicit in granting the White House such a role, has been called into question.

President Obama met Friday in the Roosevelt Room with 10 members of the Trotter Group as part of his effort to shore up his African American base for the midterm elections next month.

The meeting was fraught with symbolism. The Trotter Group was named after activist Boston editor William Monroe Trotter, a militant figure of the early 20th century. Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson explains on the Trotter Group site:

On November 12, 1914, William Monroe Trotter, editor of the Guardian newspaper, went to the White House to confront President Woodrow Wilson. Trotter had supported Wilson’s election, but lynching was flaring up, and segregation was more rigid than ever. Trotter asked Wilson where he stood.

“Wilson replied: ‘Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit. … Your manner offends me.’ A 45-minute argument ensued during which Trotter said: ‘Two years ago, you were regarded as a second Abraham Lincoln. … Now we colored leaders [who supported Wilson] are denounced in the colored churches as traitors to our race.

“The argument made the front page of The New York Times.”

On Oct. 8, Trotter Group co-founder DeWayne Wickham, a columnist for USA Today and Gannett News Service, told Trotter members that Obama wanted to meet with the group on Oct. 15.

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