"What I said was not what I said when I said it...and you Republicans had better not confuse the issue"

By Shelley McKinney
web posted September 18, 2000

Hand the lady a shovel, Candidate Gore. Democratic Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has got some digging to do, and from the sound of things, you might flex those muscles that you developed while working in the tobacco fields on your daddy's farm and give her some help. She has some smelly stuff to clean up, and maybe you do too.

Three of Al Gore's black Secret Service agents have recently filed a lawsuit, citing racial discrimination against their supervisors in the vice president's security detail. The three men contend that black Secret Service agents are frequently passed by for promotions; they claim that Gore has made no response to their repeated attempts to draw the matter to his attention.

Cynthia McKinneyWell, if the vice president wasn't aware of the problem before, he probably is now. Congresswoman McKinney made several critical remarks about her party's presidential pick that found their way not only to her own web site, but also to the front page of the Washington Times on Friday, September 8, 2000.

"Gore's Negro Tolerance Level [NTL?] has never been too high. I've never known him to have more than one black person around him at any given time. I'm not shocked, but I certainly am saddened by this revelation," said the outspoken four-term representative from Decatur. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McKinney often speaks out on the issues surrounding race relations. Boy, does she ever.

"I've personally been discriminated against at the White House by the very same people these Secret Service officers are complaining about," the congresswoman continued. "That these black officers had no response from Gore's staff is symptomatic of a larger problem. Gore would like these problems to just go away, but they'll never go away if they're not addressed."

When this bellicose commentary hit the Internet and the newspapers, there was a sudden hush in the state of Georgia that fell in less time than it would take for you to say "Loretta Sanchez found a great site for that fund-raiser." When the bluster started up again, it had taken a decidedly different tone.

"These remarks originated in a draft of a press release that was in the editing process and were never intended for public distribution," McKinney stated in a new press release. "I disclaim all of those comments. And let me warn any Republicans who might be tempted to use the comments that were attributed to me, which I have now disclaimed and retracted, to divide and confuse the voters -- I will not stand for it."

I'll tell you what I won't stand for, and that's Cynthia McKinney's saying that she has "disclaimed and retracted" her comments. How can a person do both? Either she said what she said and she now deeply regrets saying it, which calls for a retraction. Or else the remarks which were attributed to her were actually made by another person and she wants to make her own position very clear, which would be a disclaimer. I contend that she can't do both. Unless, of course, Cynthia McKinney has a doppelganger and has become her own Evil Twin, which makes perfect sense to me.

I'm baffled as to why the congresswoman thinks that the Republicans would need to confuse this whole thing any further. Why bother to step in and muddy up the waters when McKinney's doing such a splendid job all by herself? When you have things published on your own personal web site and make remarks to the press and then want to retract and disclaim and distract and explain, things get confusing. I, for one, am just grateful that McKinney can actually remember what she says didn't say: her superiors in the Democratic party so often seem to suffer from a distressing sort of situational amnesia, particularly when subpoenaed to testify under oath.

Not surprisingly, Cynthia McKinney could not be reached on Friday afternoon for -- uh...further comment. Neither did her staff have any averment to make, other than to say that their boss was out "visiting with constituents." It isn't yet clear whether that phrase is a euphemism for "staying locked in her bedroom and crying under the covers after being instructed to button her lip by an unnamed Gore campaign official." We may never know. But perhaps that's just as well: After all, we're just voters, and easily confused ones, at that.

What we do know is that the Gore campaign's deputy national spokesperson, Donna Delliole, demurely remarked, "As far as the retraction goes, we are very, very happy and pleased to have Congresswoman McKinney's support."

I'm certain that that is absolutely true. No confusion there!

Shelley McKinney is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right and can be reached at smckinney@enterstageright.com

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