State Sen. Stacey Campfield says a colleague’s reference to a rat’s rump in a rebuke to the Legislature’s Black Caucus has become a “catch phrase” among members of Tennessee’s delegation to the Republican National Convention.
Expanding in a telephone interview on comments made in blog posts from the convention, the Knoxville lawmaker also said Wednesday the Black Caucus is a “segregationist organization” that should be ignored, just as Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, suggested in a controversial email.
That email, sent to Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, with a request that she forward it to other members of the Black Caucus said: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the Black Caucus thinks.” He was responding to a Black Caucus comments on a Senate subcommittee report.
Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, chairman of the Black Caucus, said Campfield’s remarks were “asinine.” Adam Nickas, executive director of the state Republican party, said in an email that Campfield was wrong about use of the phrase at the convention.
“The only catch phrase I’ve been hearing is, “We built it,” in response to President Obama’s degrading comments to hard working small business owners,” Nickas wrote.
“In regards to Mr. Campfield and Summerville’s comments: We do not endorse their comments and they are not reflective of the view of the state party. Such statements are simply ridiculous.”
Campfield, a delegate to the ongoing GOP convention in Tampa, initially wrote in a Monday blog post: “The catch phrase of the convention (at least among the Tennessee delegation) is ‘I couldn’t give a rats ass!’… If I only had a dollar for every time I have heard ‘I love it. He is so right… of course, we can’t say it out loud!’ I would be a rich man.”
In another post on Wednesday, the senator stated: “Why has Jim Summerville’s catchphrase ‘I don’t give a rats ass what the black caucus thinks’ become the catchphrase of the Tennessee delegation? Because we don like race based segregationists of any stripe.
Summerville’s remark has been widely criticized and prompted Senate Education Committee Chairman Delores Gresham, R-Somerville, to remove him as chairman of the panel’s subcommittee. An unapologetic Summerville subsequently declared he was resigning from the entire committee.
“Which part wasn’t clear? The matter speaks for itself,” Summerville told reporters. “Maybe I could have used a more artful term like a ‘rodents posterior’.” WKRN-TV reported that Summerville made an obscene gesture toward a TV camera crew trying to question him about the matter.
Campfield said in an interview that he “probably” would not have sent the questioned Summerville emaill himself, but believes his colleague had a point.
“We should listen to their comments as individual legislators. That’s fine; that’s what it’s all about… but as a segregationist organization, we should not be listening to that,” Campfield said. “We shouldn’t give them special treatment because they are a race-based, segregationist organization.”
“It used to be that America was always trying to become the melting pot,” he said. “Now they want to segregate us into 31 different flavors. To separate and divide us – that’s not what we’ve about at all as a nation.”
Campfield, who is white, in 2005 sought membership in the Black Caucus, but was turned down. He said at the time that rejection showed the caucus discriminates on the basis of race.
Miller said Campfield’s history of “trying to create an issue with the Caucus” seemed so pointless that “I question his mental capacity… How can he think like that?”
“This guy is an extremist. He is ultra-conservative,” said Miller. “I my 20 years in the Caucus, I’ve never heard a member of the Caucus making remarks that could remotely be considered racist…. We’re a minority. We couldn’t afford to be racist in dealing with the majority.”
“I’d still like to sit down with this guy and see where did he get this asinine philosophy,” Miller said.
Campfield, meanwhile, continues to be a target for criticism over other controversial commentary.
A Psychology Today blog this week carried a post suggesting that his comments on homosexuality – including that AIDs originated from a man having sexual relations with a monkey — indicated a fear of homosexuals, or homophobia, and that this could reflect an individual’s psychological concern with his own sexual orientation or other issues.
“Tennessee’s Senator Campfield is avowedly heterosexual. But if, indeed, he was expressing homophobia when pretending to knowledge about cross-species transmission of infectious disease, it’s possible that homosexuality is not all that excites and terrifies him,” said the blog at one point.
Campfield scoffed at the article’s suggestion.
“I wonder what her (the blog author’s) thoughts are on child molesters?” Campfield said. “If you don’t like child molesters, then you must be a child molester. Is that the thinking here? It’s ridiculous.”