The NAACP has apologized to Secretary of Education Rod Paige for a snub this month that cut him from the speakers’ list at a chapter dinner.
Mr. Paige had been asked to speak in Cleveland on Sept. 11 at a dinner sponsored by the Ohio chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. But a few days before the event, he was abruptly disinvited.
NAACP President Kweisi Mfume got Mr. Paige on the phone on Sept. 13 and apologized, according to department spokeswoman Susan Aspey. Ms. Aspey wrote in an e-mail that the secretary was “disappointed” at the cancellation of his speech, but that Mr. Paige accepted the apology by Mr. Mfume. Then the two “discussed the bipartisan nature” of the 2½-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, she said.
The Ohio NAACP had invited both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee, to attend the chapter’s 74th annual convention. Secretary Paige planned to attend on the president’s behalf, while Mr. Kerry’s campaign didn’t respond to the invitation.
Ohio naacp President Sybil Edwards-McNabb told the Cleveland Plain Dealer she was instructed to cut Mr. Paige from the program because of an “imbalance” in her slate of convention speakers given that Mr Bush had sent a representative but Mr. Kerry did not. Among those who did speak at the Ohio dinner was the Rev. Al Sharpton, who had sought the Democratic nomination for president.
Ms. Edwards-McNabb did not return several telephone calls.
Mr. Mfume issued a statement saying Mr. Paige’s invitation was not withdrawn at the request of national NAACP leaders.
“I am appalled that something like this has taken place without my knowledge or authorization from my office. ... Differences of opinion must never come in the way of common courtesy or common sense,” Mr. Mfume said in the statement.
The whole incident isn’t likely to help shore up the shaky relationship between the Bush administration and the civil rights organization, which has been critical of the No Child Left Behind Act.
In July, Mr. Paige, a member of the NAACP, responded to the organization’s education policy criticisms with a strongly worded essay in The Wall Street Journal saying that NAACP leaders had taken the group in the direction of “naked, partisan politics” and that they “are not the arbiters of African-American authenticity.”