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N.C. NAACP President William Barber defends ‘dummy’ remark

North Carolina NAACP President William Barber is standing by his characterization of the U.S. Senate’s only African-American Republican as a ventriloquist’s “dummy.”

Barber made the comment Sunday night in Columbia. In a talk about what he called “right-wing extremism,” he criticized African Americans who he said aren’t following the spirit of Martin Luther King. He singled out Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.

“A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy,” Barber said. “The extreme right wing down here (in South Carolina) finds a black guy to be senator and claims he’s the first black senator since Reconstruction and then he goes to Washington, D.C., and articulates the agenda of the tea party.”

The comment generated national attention and a strong rebuke from Scott.

He told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly Tuesday that he was the target of “philosophical bigotry.”

“What we’re hearing is baseless rhetoric about the same old things that have not worked so far,” Scott told her. “We’ve had a 50-year war led by the government on poverty, and it hasn’t taken people out... In this country, conservatives, free market capitalism, produces greater success than the government can ever do.”

The North Carolina Republican Party Wednesday released samples of the national reaction in a news release headlined, “America meets Rev. William Barber.”

Barber’s comments in Columbia came during a speech about issues such as voting, health care, environment and education. He defended his comment Tuesday night in Charlotte and in a statement Wednesday.

“We believe leaders should not be echoes of the voice of extremism,” he said before an appearance in Charlotte. “The indignation should not be so much about the language. The indignation should be about the actions.”

In a statement Wednesday, he said, “Unless we stand for justice, we cannot claim allegiance to or pay homage to Dr. King. Democrat or Republican, tea party or no party, we need to talk about what’s right versus what’s wrong. Who is anybody speaking for regardless of party or color if you support extreme policies.…

“This is a critique that must be offered for all people, regardless of skin color.”

Staff writer Craig Jarvis of the (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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