Don Yelton, a local government gadfly and (former) Buncombe County Republican Party precinct chair, discovered how hot the bright light of a national spotlight can burn. The Daily Show included an interview with Yelton in a story it ran on Wednesday about the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, a move that has spurred states to adopt new rules. View The Daily Show episode here. Yelton’s comments were incredibly insensitive at the least, and baldly racist at the worst.
The story went national. Yelton stepped down. Today we do the postmortem. I’ve known, and reported on, Yelton for years. I see him as a Paula Deen sort of racist: he doesn’t even realize that what he’s saying is wrong. Consider what he told John Boyle for an Asheville Citizen-Times story today:
“There’s nothing I said that I would take back. So be it,” Yelton, 66, said. “The activity going on across the state today proves what I said is true — the Democrats are jumping on it like flies after honey.”
Yelton said the entire interview lasted two hours, with the footage cut down to just a few minutes. He says he spoke the truth about new voting laws hurting Democrats, but he also notes that years ago, when Democrats enacted early voting and other measures, they said it would help them win elections.
A part-time environmental sciences teacher who worked for Buncombe County’s recycling program in the early 1990s, Yelton said he isn’t angry about the interview, even though he’s heard from a lot of people who’ve asked him why he did it.
Every media outlet has its “purpose and direction,” Yelton said, and such interviews often aren’t about discussing the underlying issues.
“It’s the same old (excrement),” Yelton said. “Just another pile.”
Here’s more from the internets:
From the Rachel Maddow Show website:
The controversy coincides with a new effort, launched just this week, in which the North Carolina Republican Party is trying to expand its outreach to the African-American community.But in the larger context, there’s a more systemic issue for Republicans to come to terms with. Republicans are, after all, the party of birthers. They’re the party of Rep. Steve “Cantaloupe” King and Gov. Paul “Kiss My Butt” LePage. It was Republican Don Young who talked about “wetbacks” in March, and it was Republican Sarah Palin who talked about “shuck and jive” during the 2012 campaign.It’s also, of course, the party that’s spearheading voter-suppression campaigns in states nationwide, in the most sweeping assault on voting rights since the Jim Crow era.
Don Yelton learned a valuable lesson- take the Daily Show serious. Yelton was a Republican precinct official in North Carolina up until today. On the show, he appeared along with Representative John Lewis. During the segment (below), Yelton criticized “lazy black people that wants the government to give them everything.”
It seemed that Yelton was prepared for the backlash; before the interview aired, he told theMountain Xpress that “The questions were such that the answers can be played with. I expect them to play with my answers for racism.”
But Yelton, who once posted a picture of President Obama “sittin’ on a stump as a witch doctor” on Facebook to make fun “of the white half of Obama, not the black half,” doesn’t think his quotes were taken out of context. In fact, he is quite pleased with how it all turned out.
There’s plenty more. If there are any new developments, I’ll update accordingly.