Immediately after Mitt Romney addressed the NAACP today, the NAACP addressed Romney’s speech as “just throwing out buzzwords,” “misunderstanding of the needs of many African Americans,” “misread[ing] his audience,” “patronizing,” “a serious misjudgment,” and “totally disconnected.”
Romney, who received overall a polite response, despite being booed for promising to repeal Obamacare, may have been in the same room as the NAACP leadership, but he seemed to be talking to another group — his mostly-white base.
“Gov. Romney’s criticism of the Affordable Care Act signals his misunderstanding of the needs of many African Americans,” Benjamin Jealous, NAACP President and CEO, said via Twitter.
Characterizing the speech as “insensitive,” Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins reported:
“I believe his vested interests are in white Americans,” said Charlette Stoker Manning, chair of Women in NAACP. “You cannot possibly talk about jobs for black people at the level he’s coming from. He’s talking about entrepreneurship, savings accounts — black people can barely find a way to get back and forth from work.”
Pointing to what she sees as Romney’s lack of interaction with the poor African-Americans, Manning added, “It’s such a big gap in what he’s attempting to sell us.”
Dedrick Muhammad, the director of the NAACP Economic Department, chalked up the perceived tone-deafness to the fact that Romney spends most of his time on the campaign trail talking to white, middle-class audiences in rural and suburban areas.
“He knew to bring up great civil rights stalwarts and quote them, but he still seems to have great distance in understanding the needs of our community,” said Muhammad. “Instead of just throwing out buzzwords — ‘charter schools,’ ‘free enterprise’ — you can’t just say that to us and get a positive reception.”
Romney’s perceived distance from the African-American community entered the spotlight this month when a Politico reporter lost his job after asserting that Romney is only comfortable around white people.
“I think the Governor had a fairly well-crafted speech, I think he just misread his audience,” said Bill Lucy, a member of the NAACP. “I think he thought he was coming into a hostile environment… I think it’s because he mostly speaks to rich audiences and people who don’t have to think seriously about the impact of health care in their lives.”
And Judd Legum and Scott Keyes at Think Progress noted:
The crowd booed Romney when he called for the full repeal of Obamacare and audibly laughed when he suggested he would be a better president than Obama for the African-American community. Also notable was what was left unsaid. Romney failed to address voting rights, which is a major theme of this NAACP gathering.
ThinkProgress was on the scene and talked to some NAACP members after Romney’s speech to get their thoughts. James Waters said some of Romney’s comments were “patronizing,” while Joe Brown argued that Romney “made a serious misjudgment relating to the health care reform.” Allytra Perryman went even further: “I don’t think he has any way to even remotely relate to the everyday citizen, let alone African-American citizens.”
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