Susan Jones | Morning Editor | Monday, September 13, 2004
"There was no directive given by the National NAACP to withdraw an invitation to Secretary Paige," said Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in a statement released over the weekend.
Mfume said he found out about the situation late Friday, and "I am appalled that something like this has taken place without my knowledge or authorization from my office."
He said it was the Ohio State Conference of the NAACP that decided to invite -- and then dis-invite -- Secretary Paige to an event this past week. That decision, Mfume said, was "wrong."
"I will reach out to Sec. Paige on Monday morning to personally and publicly apologize for this matter," Mfume said. "Differences of opinion must never come in the way of common courtesy or common sense," he added.
Mfume released the statement after members of Project 21, a conservative black group, accused the NAACP of being "overtly partisan," something that violates the rules governing the group's nonprofit status.
"This shows exactly what the liberals are willing to do in order to make sure the black vote stays with them," said Project 21 member Richard S. Holt, an Ohio resident. "They are denying their members both an informative policy speech as well as hearing from a surrogate for the President."
According to Project 21, Ohio NAACP president Sybil Edwards-McNabb said the national leadership of the NAACP demanded that Paige's invitation to speak at the state chapter's convention this past weekend be rescinded because it created an "imbalance" among the speakers.
Project 21 said Secretary Paige planned to speak about the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind" program, a policy that would mainly help African-American students, according to Holt. "I would think this would be something the NAACP would be proud to feature at their conference," Holt said.
"I believe the decision to disinvite Secretary Paige is unfortunately consistent with other positions taken by today's NAACP," said Project 21 member Ak'Bar Shabazz.
"Today's NAACP is staunchly opposed to the education standards President Bush and Secretary Paige placed on local schools because they conflict with the interests of teachers' unions nationwide. Their actions in Ohio are transparent and should surprise no one."
Project 21 describes itself as a "leading voice of the African-American community since 1992."