Mystery email blasts GOP Chair choice for bigotry
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” said prominent Republican Abraham Lincoln when accepting his party's nomination to be their candidate for U.S. Senator. In case you need a history lesson (which it seems some members of the GOP do), Lincoln went on to be elected President and lead the Union through the Civil War.
But why listen to what a dead president had to say? It seems the Rhode Island Republican Party could care less as the division in the party continues to widen.
The finger pointing continued today as a group coining themselves as the “Young GOP RI,” who supported Dr. Daniel Harrop in his bid for party chair, are accusing the newly selected party chairman Mark Smiley of being a “bigot.”
The email also was sent to ABC6 in letter format with no return address and a printed label for an address.
Smiley was declared the chairman-elect on Sunday after the party investigated a voter discrepancy and said the one vote which put Smiley over the edge was valid.
The press release accuses Smiley of associating with and endorsing people they deemed to be bigoted. “Several years ago, at the RI Republican Assembly Christmas party, Mr. Smiley's acknowledged principal advisor, the man who has accompanied him to almost every city and town committee meeting over the course of the past few months, and the man who helped to engineer a reprehensible smear campaign against Dr. Daniel Harrop, this man being Steven DeNuccio, put on a bigoted “parody” skit called “Juan, the illegal alien Arbol Tree,” as a “joke.” Some Assembly members found it funny; some were aghast.”
“At least one prominent RI Republican, Carlos Lopez Estrada, fled the room in disgust,” the release read. Estrada, who is Cranston Mayor Allan Fung's chief of staff said he never stormed out of any party in disgust. Fung openly endorsed Harrow as chair prior to the vote but when Smiley was determined the winner sources say Flung quickly reached out to Smiley to congratulate him.
Smiley rejected the claims. “The racism charges are completely false,” said Smiley, “I was there that night and I did see the routine. This is the first time I've ever heard anyone was offended by it. In fact, Sandy Rojas, who was at the time the chair of the Hispanic Caucus actually helped Steve with the routine. I look forward to working with the Hispanic community to better understand the problems they face and how the RI Republican Party can help.”
The email goes further to accuse the “Smiley Campaign” including Lincoln GOP Chairman Michael Napolitano of accusing Dr. Daniel Harrop for being on David Cicilline's payroll when he was the mayor of the city of Providence. Harrop said he was paid by the city to do consultations for the Providence Pension Board.
The release accused Smiley supporters of accusing Harrop of supporting giving illegal aliens drivers licenses on Facebook. However there is no proof provided in the press release to verify the claims.
The release concludes by accusing Smiley's “principal advisors” of showing a “persisting streak of bigotry against Hispanics.” The group says this makes him unfit to be the leader of the party and they request the party call for his resignation or move for an impeachment.
While the release included several private cell phone numbers for individuals mentioned it included no contact information for the individual behind the release. The individual's mentioned in the email said they have no knowledge of the email being sent out and some claimed it to be “libel.” Ray McKay president of the Rhode Island Republican Assembly, the group that brands themselves, “the Republican Wing of the Republican Party” which Smiley is a member, is angry that the email singled out members of his group. He said RIRA will look into all it's options and legal action is not outside the realm of possibility.
McKay said nobody in the party supports bigotry and he is upset by the implication.
The email comes a day before the Rhode Island Republican Party called a private meeting of the Credential Committee to review the “voter irregularities” that may have occurred during the chairman's vote. The credentials committee is one of the parties 6 standing committees. According to party by-laws, this committee is charged with the task of reviewing challenges to the qualifications of a person elected to an office position within the party. In this case the committee will view the validity of the Chairman's vote. The committee meeting was called after Harrop challenged the party's decision to call Mark Smiley the chairman after previously declaring the vote invalid.
Perhaps the Rhode Island Republican's need a refresher course on how to play nicely together in the sand box or perhaps the “Young GOP RI” missed one too many history classes if they think anything good can come from this press release.
While it is commendable the young group is passionate about politics, airing the party's dirty laundry so publicly is just another black eye for the GOP.
Republicans already get a stigmatism of being “bigots” and a press release like this will do nothing to repair the party's damaged image.
Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.