Late Thursday night, Representative David Lifferth (Republican, Eagle Mountain) issued an apology for tweets sent Tuesday that were widely criticized as insensitive and racist.
The original tweet, which has since been removed from Lifferth’s Twitter feed, read “We should have known Sterling was racist when he gave money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.”
When pressed by one Twitter user if he was implying that the NAACP itself is racist, Lifferth replied “Yes, any group that tries to advance specific people based on their race is by definition racist.”
Lifferth’s tweet was commentary on the recent scandal surrounding Don Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, who was caught on tape complaining to his girlfriend for allowing herself to be photographed with Black men, and instructing her not to bring Black men to basketball games.
Jeanetta Williams, President of the Salt Lake chapter of the NAACP, told KSTU that she was “astonished by the lack of knowledge of someone in Rep. Lifferth’s position about the NAACP. We, the NAACP Salt Lake Branch publicly extend an invitation for Rep. Lifferth to attend one of our NAACP meetings where we can educate him about our volunteer work.”
Initially, Lifferth stood by his statements and defended them to media outlets seeking comment and on Twitter. But Thursday night, he released a statement apologizing for his comments, which he called a “joke” and “in poor taste.”
I need to publicly apologize for my bad joke about Don Sterling and the NCAAP. My joke was in poor taste and insensitive to others. I have learned a lot in the past few days. The NCAAP is not a racist organization. My logic was flawed.
For the record, I grew up at Ground Zero of the Civil Rights Era. I grew up in a family and was taught by parents to love all people. I have been taught much and have a great amount of love and respect for my teachers, classmates, coaches, team captains, teammates, friends, best friends, church members, neighbors, roommates, and family members of all races and ethnic backgrounds.
I apologize for my insensitive words and hope that people can find it in their hearts to forgive a naïve person that truly does love and care for people of all races and nationalities. I have deleted my tweets and hope that they no longer hurt anyone’s feelings.
The decision to walk back his comments comes after a story in the Salt Lake Tribune which revealed that Lifferth’s fellow Republican politicos were keeping him and his comments at arms-length. Governor Gary Herbert and Utah Republican Party Chair James Evans both refused to comment on the controversy, and House Speaker Becky Lockhart could not be reached for comment. Dave Hansen, longtime Republican Party insider and Campaign Manager to Mia Love’s campaign (which Lifferth has been an active supporter of), said that the Love campaign did not support Lifferth’s comments.