According to an article posted on the NBC News website by Luke Russert, nine GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives created a controversy by voting against naming a post office in Winston-Salem, N.C., after “award-winning poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.”
Russert stated: On days when House members don't have much to do, “the body names post offices. Usually these are fairly mundane affairs; the body will unanimously vote to approve the naming of a post office no matter what member puts the request forward.”
But, he noted, the vote to name the post office after Angelou passed with only 371 votes since nine Republicans cast ballots against the measure, and one member of the GOP voted “present.”
The newsman asserted that the incident was a result of the intense 2016 election cycle: “Conversations around racial issues have grown super charged during this presidential election season, and part of that seems to have rubbed off on Capitol Hill.”
“Democrats, invigorated by GOP front-runner Donald Trump's failure to quickly disavow association with former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, went on offense,” he indicated.
Russert then referred to a statement from Lauren Vandiver, a spokesperson for Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, who noted:
“While Maya Angelou did many good things in her life, Brooks … did not believe it appropriate to name an American post office after a communist sympathizer and thereby honor a person who openly opposed America's interest by supporting Fidel Castro and his regime of civil rights suppression, torture and murder of freedom-loving Cubans.”
“Other Republican lawmakers who voted 'no' had similar reasons,” Russert continued, including Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, whose spokesperson Shelby Hodgkins stated:
Congressman Harris voted against the Maya Angelou post office naming because she was a communist sympathizer.
His parents escaped communism, and he feels that he cannot vote to name a post office in the United States in honor of someone who supported the communist Castro revolution in Cuba.
The other Republicans who voted against the measure were congressmen Ken Buck of Colorado, Michael Burgess of Texas, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Alex Mooney of West Virginia and Steven Palazzo of Mississippi. Rep. Don Young of Alaska voted “present.”
In an attempt to be “fair and balanced,” Russert then quoted a statement released by Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York, who remarked:
Naming post offices is one of the most benign and bipartisan duties we perform in the House of Representatives, and there is rarely any opposition.
That's why I was shocked today as nine Republicans voted against naming a post office after Maya Angelou, indisputably one of our country's greatest poets, authors and civil rights activists.
The negative votes show “a blatant disrespect and only adds to the damaging actions they've taken this year to reverse progress from long and hard-fought civil rights battles,” Israel added.
Russert concluded his article by asserting that “Angelou, while a supporter of Democrats, was in her later years universally beloved for her poetry. She won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, her works are widely taught in American schools, and she was even put on a postage stamp after her death in 2014.”
However, as NewsBusters previously reported, Angelou has made a number of curious comments since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.
During an MSNBC segment on Election Day, Andrea Mitchell asked her what was going through her mind as the results rolled in, The guest mentioned:
I realized, almost within the minute, I don't have to apologize for my country when I'm abroad. I can say: "I belong to a great country."
And the Europeans who say: “Aren't you glad to be here in France where we don't have the racism you live under? Aren't you glad you're here in Britain, where we don't have -- I mean, I've been on the defensive so long. This time I can say: "I am an American: Look at us, look at what we've just achieved."
Six years later, while Hillary Clinton was a guest on Charlie Rose's Public Broadcasting System program, the host read part of a poem Angelou wrote during the 2008 presidential campaign:
There is a world of difference between being a woman and a being an old female. If you're born a girl, grow up, and live long enough, you can become an old female.
But to become a woman is a serious matter. A woman takes responsibility for the times she takes up and the space she occupies. Hillary Clinton is a woman.
Of course, if Angelou was a conservative Republican, any suggestion about similarly honoring her would have resulted in a deafening silence. No double standard here, right?