Tennessee state Rep. Sheila Butt
WKRN.com screenshot

Rep. Sheila Butt, a member of Tennessee’s House of Representatives, drew the ire of her black counterparts Thursday when she tried to backpedal away from her use of the abbreviation “NAAWP.” Her critics argue that the initials make a mockery of civil rights organization the NAACP, WKRN reports.

Butt responded to a Facebook post about a month ago from the Council on American-Islamic Relations that called for the state’s lawmakers to start engaging Muslim voters. She replied and said that instead, “It is time [for a] Council on Christian Relations and an NAAWP in this country.”

Some African-American and Democratic lawmakers, including members of the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus, believe she was referring to the National Association for the Advancement of White People—an organization that former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke founded to counter the NAACP, WKRN reports. But Butt said that her iteration of the initials stood for the National Association for the Advancement of Western People. She said that she was “totally unaware” of Duke’s group.

In a speech to the House Thursday, Butt explained that it was “an acronym that [she] had made up” and that she “never intended to offend anyone,” adding, “To the contrary, I was discussing a post where we should all be included, everyone should have a seat at the table. The post was meant to be inclusive of every gender, culture and religion.”

Tennessee state Rep. Brenda Gilmore, a Democrat, said that Butt has a “pattern of racist comments that has been established,” WKRN reports.


As a result, some African-American lawmakers want Butt to be excused from her role as the House floor leader. Gilmore and other Democratic lawmakers say that it’s “very sad” that the Republican arm of the House isn’t taking any action to reprimand Butt.

The Republican Caucus chairman is backing Butt and says she doesn’t believe the representative ought to step down. She believes that the Black Caucus is misinterpreting and sensationalizing Butt’s remarks.

Read more at WKRN.