Monday, April 16, 2007

Rokita Issues Apology

You read it here first when AI reported on a quote from a Washington Times-Herald story in which Secretary of State Todd Rokita had a Don Imus-like moment by suggesting African-American Democrats were in a slave-like relationship with the Democratic Party. Under a flurry of questioning from members of the mainstream media and an angry reaction from black lawmakers, Rokita wisely issued a public apology. "The word choice that I used in one part of those remarks was poor, and if I offended anyone then I ask their forgiveness for what was an insensitive metaphor," Rokita told reporters.

Just as AI predicted, Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis) was one of the first African-American leaders to speak out against Rokita's comment. An AP story quotes Crawford as saying, "What compulsion? We don't intimidate," Crawford said. "We don't buy votes. He needs to apologize to the people he offended, the people that he called ignorant and uninformed, and that is 90 percent of those African-Americans who choose to vote their level of interest as they define it for Democrats."

Rokita's comments could not have come at a worse time. He is helping defend the state's voter ID law in a lawsuit brought against the state in federal court by several plaintiffs, including Rep. Crawford. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court judge's ruling here in Indianapolis upholding the law. Rokita's comments have not gone unnoticed in election law circles. The Election Law Blog caught up with AI's post from Saturday today. Rich Hasen writes critically of Rokita:

Finally on Crawford, I've been quite critical of Indiana Sec. of State Todd Rokita for his stance on some voter identification/voter fraud issues. I am now troubled by these new remarks of Secretary Rokita, not only because it might be a "Don Imus moment," but more fundamentally I am bothered by this: why is a state's chief elections officer addressing his political party trying to inspire county GOP members to stick together as group and as a team to win:

Rokita, who won re-election in 2006, quoted the dinner's namesakes of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan to inspire county GOP members to stick together as group and as a team to win. "We need to be absolute and proud of our history," Rokita said. "I think we've forgotten how to do that. I think we've forgotten sometimes what we're about and the national media doesn't help us in that regard and the liberals certainly don;t help us in that regard.

"In a sense, that's what they are there to do and we can't blame them. What we have to do is remind ourselves of what we've done for this country and what we're going to do for this country...that we are still the party of purpose and not the party of 'No'" Rokita added.

That this is an acceptable topic for a public speech by a state's chief elections officer is one of the biggest scandals of all.

As I said before, I do not believe Rokita intentionally set out to offend African-Americans, but he should have chosen his words more wisely than he did. I suspect he was not aware his comments were being recorded at the Republican gathering in Daviess County last week. He was wise to quickly issue an apology today, but it remains to be seen whether the issue goes away any time soon. The plaintiffs in the voter ID lawsuit will no doubt use Rokita's unguarded comments to their advantage at least in the public debate, if not in the legal debate as they ponder whether to take their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Star's Mary Beth Schneider has a story on the apology here.


Wilson46201 said...

Rokita may indeed been trying to increase diversity within the GOP (a good thing!) but Daviess County with less than 1% Black population is a most peculiar place to do it. Of course, that county has a greater Latino population but I suspect the whole GOP "illegal aliens" schtick has poisoned Hispanic outreach down there...

Anonymous said...

I'm sure all the MSM reporters learned of this story from your blog, but I don't see any of them acknowledging how the story filtered through the blogosphere throughout the weekend before any of the MSM noticed the story. It didn't appear the reporter for the Herald-Times realized how controversial Rokita's comments would be perceived.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 4:15, I can't recall a single instance when any of the MSM has sourced this blog for anything other than Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, who has done so on several occasions. Kevin Rader, Jim Shella, several Star reporters and other State House reporters log on and read this blog daily. The only blog they typically will source is Taking Down Words--and then only to note the blogger is the communications director for the state Democratic Party--not to pay credit to her individually. Let's face it, many of these MSMs are lazy. It's easy to log on and get their story ideas from the blogs. It saves them the time of working up their own stories. Do you expect them to acknowledge an unpaid blogger does a better job with the news than they do? I guess I would be more disappointed if they ignored what I wrote about.

Wilson46201 said...

Ch.13 just reported that out of 56 employees in the Secy of State's Office, only 2 are black! Nice outreach to African-Americans, Todd!

A hint to impecunious Black Republicans: now's a great time to hit up Rokita for a job! LOL!

Gary R. Welsh said...

As poorly-paid as those jobs are, Wilson, I'm not too sure anyone's real anxious to work for the SoS. I recall a person graduating from law school around the same time as me being hired on in the securities division for $25K a year--hardly enough to pay rent, utilities and food--let alone a student loan and a car.

Wilson46201 said...

More GOP Minority outreach efforts (via Political Wire):

Tommy Thompson (R) told a group of Jewish activists that making money is "part of the Jewish tradition," and something that he applauded, Haaretz reports.

Said Thompson: "I'm in the private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money. You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that."

After causing "a stir in the audience," Thompson only made matters worse by trying to apologize.

"I just want to clarify something because I didn't [by] any means want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances and things. What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion. You've been outstanding business people and I compliment you for that."

Anonymous said...

This story would have never seen the light of day had the blogs not been talking about it all weekend. Good work, AI. Masson's Blog had a good discussion on it also.

Anonymous said...

You have to ask, as with the much-bigger Imus incident:

What possessed Rokita to make these comments? He was talking to a reporter, right? Did he think it was a confidential conversation? Was he throwing some red meat to the local faithful in Davies County? Had he taken complete leave of his common sense, if he ever had any?

His apology is half-assed, too: 'If I offended anyone, I'm sorry.' I'll hand Imus the crown on apologies. His was straight-forward and direct: I screwed up and I'm sorry.

Todd should've gone to school on the Imus announcement.

But then, Todd never was a genius.

Anonymous said...

Abdul's giving Rokita a big pass over at his blog, Indiana Barrister. No mention of Rokita being a client of the law firm where he works. Norm Cox is quoting Abdul in his report at WRTV. Conflict of interest?

Anonymous said...

Abdul and Rokita are buddies. No secret there as to why Abdul is giving him a pass. Visit Nicky Blaines and you'll understand.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Abdul has acknowledged his relationship with Tom John's law firm in the past. Tom John, the Marion Co. GOP chairman, is Rokita's former campaign manager and sat on the state election commission chaired by Rokita. The Secretary of State's office is a big client of John's. I don't think he feels he needs to mention his relationship with the law firm--he serves in an of-counsel capacity--each time a conflict may exist. The firm got its start on a $1 million plus contract with Attorney General Steve Carter's office awarded to the founders immediately after they left the employ of the AG's office.

Anonymous said...

FYI - Todd Rokita is not a racist. To suggest he is ill-informed and reckless at best. Todd gave a Lincoln Day Dinner Speech as he has done countless times. He used a metaphor that is certainly not unique to him (Google it) that was pounced upon and exploited by his enemies. I know Todd, and he is his own harshest critic. His asking forgiveness is genuine and not a political ploy. To work in the SOS office is often a thankless job beyond the praise Todd gives to his own employees. To suggest he is anything but fair an caring about his minority employees is perhaps the most ignorant statement/assumption of all.

Anonymous said...


The National Black Republican Association website has a detailed history of the Democrat Party and its racist past and treatment of African Americans over the past 200 years in this country.

SOS Rokita did not owe my people an apology for stating a fact taken out of context. For too long, the Democrat Party has taken credit for the civil rights struggle and legislation passed to help African Americans improve their quality of life. Dr. Martin Luther King was a Republican and was discredited by Democrats while he was alive.

Most African Americans who identify with the Republican Party are well educated, entrepreneurs, have professions or own businesses. They do not choose to pursue jobs paying low wages.

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. An example of an economic setback is HB 1566, sponsored by Rep. Bill Crawford [D} this session. This piece of legislation was introduced by him to change the definition of "minority and women" owned businesses to include not-for-profit corporations bidding for state contracts. Why should a for profit professional in a trade or certified MBE/WBE compete for contracts against a (501-C3) Corporation who receives United Way dollars, has access to all types of grants and foundation funds, and do not have to worry about their bottom line to survive?

The Republican controlled Senate removed the language from the Bill and now it goes back to the House. I am waiting to see if Crawford attempts to restore the language in his HB 1566. This was truly a setback for certified minority owned businesses that do business with the State of Indiana.

Talk about twisting arms, how can these non for profit community based organizations be considered minority businesses. Community Action of Greater Indianapolis, Inc. - 7/31/01; Family Wellness Services, Inc. - 12/12/05; Indiana Black Expo - 4/14/02; Indiana Latino Institute - 12/10/03; Indiana Minority Health Coalition - 12/31/01; Sweet Serenity House - 4/6/05; Universal Behavioral Services 12/18/03; Sisters of St. Francis Health Services 1/21/01; Infrastructure Engineering, Inc. 8/20/04. There are nine not for profit corporations certified as minority or women owned business with the State of Indiana. This was done under the Democrat administrations in State government.

The truth is the Democrat Party does take the African American vote for granted. They have been the must loyal voting populous and receive crumbs off the table compared to the gains of other supporters of the Party. A majority of black voters do not know the history of the Republican or Democrat Party or the Parties' platforms. Voter education used to be a top priority in the African American community, but no longer.
Elected black leaders today do very little voter education. In fact, they do not bother to inform their black constituents of important pieces of legislation to be voted on before it becomes law.

Too many social programs have crippled the progress of African Americans since the Roosevelt era which was the turning point to gain votes politically for the Democrat Party. A handout rather than a hand up.

Yes, they do use intimidation and arm-twisting to keep many black voters loyal to the Party.

As a former member of the Democrat Party for 30 years, I have first hand knowledge of the harassment and tactics used to discredit an individual who does not go along with their program. The Party bosses do not want voters to think individually for themselves. They tell uninformed voters to vote a straight Party ticket every election which programs them not to think about the individual's qualification for the political office being sought.

The African American Republican Council locally is hosting its installation of new officers and a membership drive on April 28th. Stay tuned for more updates as we make a difference in this State.

I am the newly elected President of the African American Republican Council.

Anonymous said...

Nice, Jocelyn. You could hold that meeting in a phone booth.

Any group that elects her president can't be credible. 'Nuff said.

Rokita shouldn't have made the remark in private, let alone to reporters and attendees at a Republican fund-raiser.

His apology, a day or so late, said he was sorry "if" he offended by using a "metaphor."

What happened to:

"It was stupid. I'm sorry."

He couched his apology soas not to offend the audience with which he broke bread in Washington. It was a disgraceful comment, indicative, I think of the true Rokita.

Not racist? So says his friend.


Anonymous said...

Response to Anonymous 5:59 AM

Sorry to disappoint you. The membership is too large to fit in a phone booth. Typical name calling by democrats trying to discourage a difference of opinion. They just can't help it!

Stay tune you will begin to see some changes in the African American Community politically.

Typical of Democrats attempting to discredit any African American who does not have a "slave mentality".

The Democrats did the same thing to Dr. Martin Luther King, and now they celebrate him, a Republican.

Jacob Perry said...

Funny, I'm having a difficult time discovering what was incorrect about Rokita's statement. Non-PC to be sure, but not incorrect.