Could This CPAC Race Event Have Gone Any Worse?

TPM/Benjay Sarlin
TPM/Benjay Sarlin

Safe to say the relationship between conservatives and the majority of nonwhite Americans is still a work in progress. On Friday that work became messy, hostile and at times nonsensical at a Conservative Political Action Conference session titled, "Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist When You Know You're Not One?"


If you think the title sounds like the beginning of an unproductive screaming match, you may be right.

Talking Points Memo reports that the session was led by black conservative K. Carl Smith, who urged attendees to deflect charges of racism by calling themselves "Frederick Douglass Republicans," and included allegations that whites were "systematically disenfranchised." To top it off, a nonconservative black attendee was "booed and screamed at" by other guests.

As one attendee told TPM's Benjy Sarlin in the CPAC understatement of the day, "Race is such a weird issue … It's hard to talk about it." Some highlights from TPM:

"I don't care how much the KKK improved," [Smith] said. "I'm not going to join the KKK. The Democratic Party founded the KKK."

Lines like that drew shouts of praise from some attendees and murmurs of disapproval from one non-conservative black attendee, Kim Brown, a radio host and producer with Voice of Russia, a broadcasting service of the Russian government.

But then questions and answers began. And things went off the rails.

Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event's take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a "white nationalist" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

"It seems to be that you're reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males," Terry said, adding he "came to love my people and culture" who were "being systematically disenfranchised."

Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.

"For giving him food? And shelter?" Terry said.

At this point the event devolved into a mess of shouting. Organizers calmed things down by asking everyone to "take the debate outside after the presentation."

Brown, who took offense at the suggestion modern Democrats were descendants of the KKK, tried to ask a question later once things finally calmed down. She was booed and screamed at by audience members.

Read more at Talking Points Memo.