(note: this post has been updated below to reflect Keith’s decision to step aside as Chair-elect of the HCRP)
Keith Nielsen, chair-elect of the Harris County Republican Party, is facing calls for resignation for what many Texas leaders are calling a racist post on Facebook. His defenders are calling it nothing more than a gaffe for which he has apologized and he need not step aside. For those unaware of the controversy, here you go:
Again for those unaware, that quote is from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. The banana is, of course, a long time symbol of racism towards blacks by comparing them to monkeys.
Keith apologized, then deleted the apology. In this Houston Chronicle article by Jasper Scherer, Nielsen is quoted as reposting the image with the banana because in his childhood home, they used the word “bananas” instead of curse words and he was trying to differentiate between protesters and rioters.
Tone deaf much, yes but should he decline to accept the position for which he was duly elected? Many Texas Republicans certainly think so.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick:
“I have called on the chair of Bexar County and the chair-elect of Harris County to step down because of their recent outrageous and racist statements on social media. The Texas Republican Party represents the majority of Texans — conservatives who are united by principles of freedom, faith and equality for every Texan. There is no room for racism or hatred, in our party — let alone in a leadership position.
“Going forward, we know that some Democrats and their allies in the media will continue to throw out charges of “racism” anytime they disagree with us on any issue. Without taking that bait, we should continue to unequivocally condemn racism where we see it in our party and in their party.
“As have said before, in times of crisis all Texans come together. During this past week Texas has seen primarily peaceful protests including a march of over 60,000 people in Houston. During Hurricane Harvey we were one Texas — nobody cared who was on the roof or who was in the boat. Our state has one of the most diverse populations in the world. We know there is more work to be done in bringing us all together and ensuring that every Texan is respected, treated equally and prospers.
“But we cannot do this alone. Scripture commands us to love one another as we love ourselves. We can’t do that unless we love God and put him first in all that we do. He is the answer to healing our nation.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw:
Keith Nielsen has no place in our party. Not now. Not ever. It is a sad reminder that such blatant ignorance and bigotry still exists. When we see it, it’s our duty to unequivocally condemn it and make sure that people like him have no place in our politics.
Rep. Michael McCaul:
The Facebook post made by the Harris County GOP Chair-elect was racist and unacceptable. Keith Nielsen should tender his resignation immediately. Racism has no place in the Republican Party, the state of Texas or the United States of America.
I have known Keith Neilsen of several years, and my wife and I have worked with him and his wife in Republican organizations. I like them both, have hoped that Keith would succeed as the new HCRP Chair, and have been prepared to help him in any way I could to succeed. Moreover, I have no doubt that about his the sincerity of his beliefs and motives, or his desire to improve relations between our party and those African-American neighbors who currently support the Democrats but who agree with us on so many issues.
Based on all of this, I was shocked to see the post Keith uploaded to social media quoting MLK with the picture of a banana.
Regardless of his intent, the message seen and perceived of putting these two images together does nothing but reinforce the distrust of our party among many of our neighbors. Although I like Keith and wish him well, this is not the message or perception the party of Lincoln should be making at any time—let alone in the midst of the ordeal we now face as a country. Although Keith removed the post and has apologized, this is a bell that cannot be un-rung in this age of social media, and it will impede our efforts to try to re-build trust with our neighbors. Frankly, it will haunt us and our candidates this fall.
It is for these reasons, that I join so many leaders of our party, including Senator Cruz, Commissioner Bush, and Congressmen Crenshaw, Hurd and Roy, in condemning the gross lack of judgment behind this post, and the perception it reinforced among our neighbors; and I sadly join them in asking Keith to resign his position as HCRP Chair-elect to allow the HCRP Executive Committee to elect a new chair this summer.
You get the gist of their complaints.
And I get it. The job of the HCRP Chair is to bring people to the party, not keep them away. Does this racist post/gaffe help in that regard? No. Does it hurt? Not really.
What? Not really, I say? Yep. Not a single person is going to stay away from voting Republican because of this Facebook post. Not one. The fact is that yes, Democrats will use it to tell votes that Republicans are racist. Guess what? If Keith declines to take the role, they will STILL use it against Republicans. So really, what is to be gained by Keith stepping aside?
Now, I’m not saying he should or shouldn’t step aside. I’ll leave that up to Keith. I’m simply saying that it isn’t going to help or hurt the HCRP regardless of his decision. He probably should stay and fight if he wants to reclaim the good name he has had in the party for many years but again, I’ll leave that up to him.
From a purely political perspective, I think he should stay. Harris County Republicans are going to be crushed in November. It would be nice to have a sacrificial lamb as the head of the party and then choose someone to lead the party back to some success in 2022 when we don’t have the stigma of Donald Trump at the head of the ballot. Besides, if he declines to accept the post, the HCRP Executive Committee will choose the new chair – talk about a disaster. This group is now led by the most radical of radicals in the party. On second thought, maybe it would be fun to see whom they would choose.
I reached out to Dr. Steven Hotze for his thoughts on Keith. After all, if it weren’t for Dr. Hotze’s support, Keith would never have been elected in the first place. This is what he had to say:
I cannot imagine that Keith intended to disrespect blacks with his post.
If I were him, then I would just ignore the cries to resign.
UPDATE: Keith Nielsen has decided to step aside and will not be Chair of the HCRP. Via his Facebook post:
I have spent my entire adult life supporting conservative candidates and causes and I am grateful for the thousands of supporters who have reached out to me over the last several days. I regret that I must step aside as Chairman-elect of the Harris County Republican Party and will not be taking office on Aug. 3rd. I will continue to stand up for the values that have made our country great…“Faith, family and freedom.” Dr. King’s quote is as relevant today as when it was delivered. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Concerning Keith’s statement, Senator Paul Bettencourt said, “The true measure of a person is what they do in the face of adversity. I respect Keith for his decision and thank him for his years of service to the HCRP.”
Ralph Northam is still Governor of Virginia. This faux pas will fade over time and your point about offering Keith Nielsen up as a sacrificial lamb is interesting, especially when viewed from the left. Watching him wriggle and squirm will be exquisite entertainment for the Dan Patricks of the world as he becomes their handy foil. Fun also for the Democrats. Can you imagine the new Black Lives Matter posters?
Red State Renegade says
Mr. Jennings, care to elaborate on the “… HCRP Executive Committee will choose the new chair – talk about a disaster. This group is now led by the most radical of radicals in the party.” who among us on the disasters? I’m hoping I may have made the list. I genuinely respect your perspective and insight.
Red State Renegade
David Jennings says
No need to elaborate Red State Renegade. Just recall the last several EC meetings and you’ll know I’m right. Of course, if you do qualify for “the list”, then you are happy with the direction the party is taking. Good luck with that.
Jeremiah Mbong says
The real racism in the Republican Party is not because Keith Nielsen made a poor judgement of combing a banana with dirty floor but what he has done by standing by us in the African Conservatives Assembly. The picture up here is that of the Vice President of the African Conservatives Assembly with Tammie and Keith Nielsen. I can draw a list of Republicans in Harris County that have called us all names available but Republicans and despite several invites would not be caught dead in our events. To me to chose this particular picture for your post is itself racism. What do you hope to achieve by posting this particular picture. I can authoritatively say that we did not give you the picture nor have you been to any of our events. Keith Nielsen reaches out to us and support us while none of the ones whining about his supposed racist tendencies wouldn’t even call us Republicans because we are Africans. Let’s check ourselves first because we call another a racist. I know a whole lot of racist in Harris County Republican Party, Keith Nielsen isn’t one of them.
David Jennings says
Frankly, I have never heard of the African Conservatives Assembly and I’ve been around the HCRP for more years than I can remember. Good for you if you have a group.
I’m not sure why you would say that the real racism is Keith standing by your group. Odd.
No, you didn’t give me the picture, nor did I ask you for the picture. The picture was on Keith’s Facebook page. I have no idea why you think it is racist to put up a picture of Keith and Tammie with a black person. I thought that the picture was perfectly appropriate for the topic at hand.
Lastly, I didn’t call anyone a racist. But your friend Jacquie Baly did call out Keith for his Facebook post. If I posted this picture of you and Jacquie together, what would that make you? https://bit.ly/30kbrcC
Doc Greene says
I agree with Jeremiah. Keith Nielsen is no racist. In fact I had to have the banana meme explained to me because I didn’t see the problem. I like bananas. does that make me a racist?
biggest thing I got out of this is our host is a Trump hater
on another note, if it has to be explained it ain’t much to get in a huff about
Hey David, you voting for Biden?
Bill Daniels says
It’s weird….it’s like the ‘conservative’ Houston blog is really just controlled opposition, gently trying to steer the unsuspecting away from reelecting Trump. That’s what the current street riots and protests are trying to do.
We’re getting this agit-prop from all sides, it seems. The only people who seem to support America are Trump….and his supporters. It’s a shame that people who benefit from Trump’s policies enjoy crapping on him. Almost everything he has done has been a concerted effort to make the US a better, stronger, country, and to improve the lives of ALL US citizens.
David Jennings says
Bill, fact is that I have been, am and always will be a conservative because I like the philosophy.
You, like DanMan, simply que on to anything that fits your personal narrative without considering the facts. And the facts are that Donald Trump is not a conservative. He also isn’t a Republican, in the sense that Republican meant certain things since the days of Lincoln. But I get that the party has moved away from freedom, fiscal conservatism and the desire for all to have a better life in favor of those that already do. It is what it is.
So, you can be whatever you wish to be and I’ll do the same.
Bill Danielsb says
Well, I agree that trump isn’t a Republican. Trump is a populist that hijacked the Republican Party. Trump has presided over profligate spending, just as his predecessors did. That is a legitimate beef. He also banned bump stocks, anathema to the Constitution and conservative thought. I agree.
Having said that, Trump is the best thing to come along for conservatives like you, and libertarian leaning conservatives like me, since Reagan. Hell, Trump surpasses Reagan, if we’re being objective.
Look at the current insurrection. It’s leftist agitators and their useful idiots taking to the streets, destroying and disrupting. Where are your leaders? Mitt Romney is out their marching with the protestors! Trump, meanwhile, calls the NG and military to preserve our civilization from arsonists, looter,s and vandals. We need strong leadership, and Trump is the only one around with the balls to provide it.
First it was Covid 19 thrown against Trump, now it is Floyd 19. Next month, it will be something else, all designed to get Biden elected.
Want unity within the Republican Party? Start by supporting your president.
David Jennings says
Goodness. You say you are a libertarian leaning conservative and you support Trump? I don’t even know where to start with that one. I copied this from another former Republican:
If you support President Trump you do not support conservatism. Those are mutually exclusive proposition.
If you support Trump, you support adding more to the national debt than any president has ever added in a single term – an average of $1.9 trillion per year.
If you support President Trump you support government run collectivist protectionist trade policy over private sector free market free trade which have cost American consumers more in the form of higher prices (which acts as a consumption tax increase) and has cost American jobs by making us globally noncompetitive due to the retaliatory tariffs that were leveraged against American firms.
If you support President Trump you support his unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers by declaring a “national emergency” to take appropriation powers to himself – in violation of the Appropriations Clause (Article I Section 7 Clause 1) which has laid the groundwork for any future Democratic president to simply declare a “national emergency” to implement anti-gun policy or universal healthcare.
If you support President Trump, you support his incessant cheerleading for cheap money which lead to the stagflation of the 1970s.
Harris County voters have shown they are adamantly anti-Trump, so maybe if we started nominating true conservatives who also show a backbone to stand against Trump when he violates conservative principles we could start to earn back the trust and respect of voters in Harris County.
Perhaps there will be unity in the Republican Party when Trump is a distant memory but I suspect that R’s are going to be hurt for many, many years to come.
And no, I won’t be voting for Joe Biden. I’ll either vote third party as I did in 2016 or I will skip that particular race.
Bill Daniels says
As already stated, I’m not happy about the profligate spending.
But let’s look at some of the other issues. Trade. OK, Trump is the only one who even bothered to talk about our unfair trade policies. Trump is the only one to call out China for stealing our intellectual property, flooding the world with cheap knockoffs,. He’s the only one that called out countries like Japan, that flood our market with cars, but tariff our cars so that Americans cars in Japan are an oddity at best.
Trump is the only one to call out NATO for non paying NATO countries besides us not living up to the obligations they themselves agreed to. Trump is the only one who talked about ending wars, not starting new wars, and lessening our role as the world’s policeman. Turns out, the silent majority of Republican voters are tired of the Afghan War. They are tired of us being in Iraq. They are tired of us constantly doing regime change. That puts the R base at odds with the former R leaders, like McCain, Romney, the Bushes, etc. That’s why not one of those folks supported or will support Trump. His goals are not their goals. Why do you think Romney is marching with the rioters? Romney has more in common with the leftists who vilified him for being a racist than he does with Americans just tired of perpetual war.
Trump was among many that talked about the problem brought by unfettered illegal immigration, but unlike the others, only Trump was serious about it. He’s actually building a wall. You complain about Trump using emergency powers. Yes, that is dangerous territory, but I guarantee you Hillary would be using those same powers now, against US. Trump is stopping the illegal child smuggling pipeline. He’s doing what we should have done all along….telling illegals you can’t come in uninvited, and instantly deporting those who don’t listen and try anyway.
There were 16 other people on that debate stage. Besides maybe Ted Cruz, which of them would actually relentlessly put in the work to do these hard things? I agree that for Chamber of Commerce Republicans, Trump’s actions are distasteful. He was just supposed to talk about it, then quietly quit when there was some push back. That isn’t Trump. Trump captivated Republicans because of his America First policy positions and his swagger, and he’s spent the last 3 1/2 years continuing to fight to deliver what he promised.
More recently, we see rioting taking over the whole Western world. Who is behind that? Who is coordinating that? Leftists. Globalists. Basically everyone opposed to Trump. And what is Trumps response? He recognizes the threat and comes out for law and order. He brought in the 82nd Airborne to protect our shared history from destruction by the violent leftists. Even the church visit that leftists are working overtime to vilify him for…..they attempted to burn it down the previous nigh, and Trump drew a red line and said, you’re not burning down the church. His walk to the church was saying, “this belongs to America, not to America hating rioters.
Whose streets? OUR streets! When I saw that, I literally cheered out loud.
Trump is all that stands between a successful, verdant America full of opportunity and promise for all Americans, and a socialist dystopia. where we are taught to hate ourselves.
Doc Greene says
On the other hand, Donald Trump has acted at the most conservative president since George Washington. No president has ever acted so positively in advancing the Republican Agenda. No president has every done as much work to stop abortion as this president. Other presidents talk but they didn’t do. This is the first president ever to actually undo the damage done to the ship of state by his predecessors. Check my FB page for the list of over 1000 things he has done to prove he is the most conservative president in history. #RightSideOfTheMic
David Jennings says
I always get a kick out of what DanMan is going to take away from a post. I mention Trump a single time in a 1,000 word post and BAM! I’m a Trump hater!
Of course, you cannot say that what I said is false because we both know it is going to happen. So, attack that guy that wrote it. Hmm, who does that again?
Greg Degeyter says
Looks like the infighting is going to continue for the time being. Everyone loses in this scenario. Until the party can pull together and start cooperating rather than bloodletting we have no reason to expect a turn around at the county level.
I’ve said it before and will say it again. The county party needs a caretaker chair until it can get it’s act together. If the executive committee appointnts someone from either of the main infighting camps the fighting will simply continue.