Newt Gingrich recently created a stir over statements linked to race, receiving criticism for linking food stamps specifically with the African American community. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), came to Gingrich’s defense, saying the NAACP was being “a little too sensitive” about the comments. He also added his own analysis on how to get minorities “off the liberal plantation and out of the liberal barrio.”
Gingrich’s comments were part of his general campaign theme of “paychecks vs. food stamps.” Since the start of his campaign, Gingrich has repeatedly called President Obama “the finest food stamp president in American history.” The moniker struck some as racist, a charge Gingrich refuted. Last Thursday, however, Gingrich said he would take his message to African Americans directly.
“Now there’s no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people would you rather your children have food stamps or paychecks, you wouldn’t end up with a majority saying they’d rather have a paycheck,” Gingrich said. “And so I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks, and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
The NAACP was quick to respond, pointing out that most people on food stamps are white and that most work and earn a paycheck.
“It is a shame that the former Speaker feels that these types of inaccurate, divisive statements are in any way helpful to our country,” said NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Gingrich’s statement is problematic on several fronts, most importantly because he gets his facts wrong.”
Gingrich defended himself by saying that the “elite media” was distorting his intent. “I am for conservatives going into the poorest neighborhoods of every ethnic group and helping every American have a chance to pursue happiness,” Gingrich said.
Land was asked about Gingrich’s remarks during an interview by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Land discussed his experience at the first summit on faith-based initiatives in 2001, an event co-chaired by Rick Santorum. Land said that at the meeting, African-Americans and Hispanic leaders at the summit supported faith-based initiatives were “off the liberal plantation and out of the liberal barrio.”
“About 80 percent of the people that came were African-American and Hispanic. And I heard them all day say faith-based initiatives [are] an opportunity for us to get off the liberal plantation and out of the liberal barrio, and [to] have people who actually live in the zip codes that have problems make the decisions about what’s best for the people in those zip codes,” Land said.
Conservatives including Allen West (R-Fl.) and Pat Buchanan have used the phrase “liberal plantation” because they allege Democratic leaders are keeping African Americans in their control through either welfare programs or propaganda.
Slate’s David Weigel, who heard the Gingrich’s statement in person, said Gingrich’s comment was taken out of context and was newsworthy only because it was the first time Gingrich said he was going to take his food stamps vs. paychecks message directly to black voters.
“The way I heard this was that Gingrich, who spent years being attacked as a racist…was pre-empting any arguments about his motives,” Weigel said. “He was aiming for a nerve with Republicans who frequently ask why black voters, suffering from an unemployment rate that’s twice the national average, like Barack Obama so much.”