Dallas NAACP President Resigns After Inflammatory Remarks
KHVN 970 AM announcer (on tape): Heaven 97. It is now time for a special edition, a special program, a 15-minute program on the Lee Alcorn controversy.
Suzanne Sprague, KERA 90.1 Reporter: The controversy that rocked Dallas's African-American and Jewish communities began Monday. Local NAACP President Lee Alcorn was appearing on KHVN, a black gospel radio station, when he criticized Al Gore for picking Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is Jewish, over an African-American as his running mate.
Lee Alcorn, NAACP President on KHVN (on tape): So I think we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnership between the Jews at that kind of level, because we know because their interests have primarily to do with money.
Sprague: The comment angered Jewish community leaders and prompted Alcorn to call a press conference Wednesday and say he was sorry.
Alcorn: These comments were mis-spoken. If I had a chance to review that or to recapture those comments, then I certainly would make it more specific and say Lieberman, who is the politician I am concerned about. I should have stuck with his politics. His politics is enough to be against him.
Mark Briskman, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League: And that's a valid issue. But when he made those statements on Monday, that's not what he did.
Sprague: Mark Briskman is the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.
Briskman: He didn't even refer to Senator Lieberman by name. He basically just talked about being a Jew, being a member of that community in conspiratorial terms. I still think he genuinely doesn't understand what he did and why it was anti-Semitic and bigoted, and that's really unfortunate.
Sprague: When pressed at the news conference, Alcorn insisted he wasn't anti-Semitic, but he didn't acknowledge why his comments might be offensive to the Jewish community. His radio remarks also sparked outrage from NAACP national President Kweisi Mfume, who suspended Alcorn from the nation's oldest civil rights group on Wednesday. But before Alcorn was notified of the suspension, he offered to leave.
Alcorn: I resign, and I offer my membership in the organization back because I cannot work with an organization whose center concern is money.
Sprague: Alcorn accused the NAACP of selling out to corporate America by scaling back protests in order to secure donations from major businesses. Instead, Alcorn has formed the Coalition for the Advancement of Civil Rights (CACR), a group he says has 50 members and $800 in donations.
Dwaine Caraway, NAACP member: He can't have his way and do the things he feels he needs to do to carry out his own personal agenda .
Sprague: Dwaine Caraway is a member of the Dallas NAACP who lost to Alcorn in the group's last presidential election.
Caraway: I welcome his resignation. It is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to Dallas. It is something that I think the Dallas branch now will have to heal and go forward.
Sprague: Observers are divided over how Alcorn's comments will affect the sometimes strained relationship between the African-American and Jewish communities. Although Alcorn was contrite during the 30-minute press conference Wednesday, he stood by his position that the Democratic Party takes African-Americans for granted. And he promised to continue his brand of often confrontational activism even without the support of the NAACP. For KERA 90.1, I'm Suzanne Sprague.