Saturday, November 17, 2012

Charlie Webster: Sorry for 'black people' claim

By: Kevin Robillard
November 16, 2012 07:52 AM EST

Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster has apologized for alleging widespread voter
fraud by mysterious groups of black people in rural parts of the state.

“It was my intention to talk not about race but about perceived voting irregularities,” Webster said in a statement, according to the Portland Press Herald. “However, my comments were made without proof of wrongdoing, and they had the unintended consequence of casting aspersions on an entire group of Americans. For that, I am
truly sorry.”

Earlier this week, Webster told a local television station that “In some parts of rural
Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day. Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anyone who’s black.”

Maine’s Democratic Party chairman called the comments “racist,” and the state’s
NAACP chapters called them “offensive and insulting.”

Webster, a longtime opponent of same-day voter registration, said he was going to investigate the alleged fraud by sending thank-you notes to voters who registered on Election Day. If the notes were returned, he would know the addresses were falsified.
In his statement Thursday, he said he was dropping the plan to investigate.

Webster’s apology amounted to a sudden reversal. As late as Thursday afternoon,
he was still defending his comments in an interview with Talking Points Memo.

“There’s nothing about me that would be discriminatory,” he said. “I know black
people. I play basketball every Sunday with a black guy. He’s a great friend of mine. Nobody would ever accuse me of suggesting anything.”

But Webster had started taking criticism from members of his own party. Lance
Dutson, a Maine Republican operative who has previously worked for Sen. Susan
Collins, called for the chairman’s resignation.

“Webster’s statements should be cause for immediate resignation,” Dutson wrote on Twitter. “Any GOP who values future of the party should demand the same.”

Webster’s term as state chairman ends Dec. 1. He has said he is not running for reelection.

Source:  © 2012 POLITICO LLC

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