Skip to comments.CNN's Novak under fire for calling American Indians election thieves
Posted on 01/09/2004 8:56:14 AM PST by Pikamax
CNN's Novak under fire for calling American Indians election thieves By Denise Ross, Journal Staff Writer
Robert Novak, nationally known political commentator, has drawn criticism from all corners of South Dakota for racially charged remarks he made Tuesday on CNN's nationally broadcast program, "Crossfire."
"In 2002, (Republican candidate John) Thune would have been elected to the state's other Senate seat, but the election was stolen by stuffing ballot boxes on Indian reservations. Now, Tom Daschle may have to pay for that theft," Novak said in an exchange with Democratic operative James Carville.
Carville called the statement "really out there" and said American Indians are "very patriotic Americans."
"Has Thune said that the Native Americans are election thieves?" Carville asked.
Novak replied, "No, I said it."
On Thursday, three people demanded Novak apologize. They are state Democratic Party chairwoman Judy Olson Duhamel of Rapid City, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Jandreau and Frank LaMere, treasurer of a political action committee.
South Dakota's governor, two U.S. senators, secretary of state, Republican Party chairman and Thune's campaign also issued statements.
"I can't conceive of anyone making that debasing statement about anyone in the human race," Olson Duhamel said. "This kind of racist, insulting remark is outrageous. There's just no excuse. I call on John Thune to repudiate that, and I expect other political leaders in both parties to make statements, to join me in demanding an apology."
Jandreau and LaMere sent letters to Novak's office. Novak, who is in Iowa, did not respond to a telephone message from the Rapid City Journal.
Jandreau took Novak to task for a series of anti-Indian remarks and included an excerpt of a Dec. 13 "Crossfire" transcript in which Novak said, "The Indians, they got the phony Indian votes out there."
Jandreau called Novak's accusations "outrageous, offensive and factually wrong."
"Our people deserve to have a voice in the democracy you and I both cherish, just like every other American," Jandreau wrote. "When people like you characterize our participation as suspect solely because you may not like the outcome, you undermine the fundamental principle upon which our great republic is built."
LaMere said Novak is eager to "paint with a broad brush a whole race of people who want what every American wants, a chance to be heard and a chance to be counted."
"Indian people did not stuff ballot boxes on Indian reservations and to even hint at that is insensitive and irresponsible at best and blatantly racist at worst," LaMere, treasurer of the Four Directions political action committee, wrote.
Thune's new campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, replied quickly to Olson Duhamel's call for a statement.
"Robert Novak's comments were inappropriate and certainly do not reflect John Thune's commitment to work hard for the Native American vote in 2004," Wadhams said. "The accusation overall is just off the mark."
Thune, a three-term Republican congressman, announced Monday that he would challenge Sen. Daschle, a Democrat, in South Dakota's 2004 Senate election. The race will watched by political pundits nationwide, just as they did when Thune lost to incumbent Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., by 524 votes in 2002.
Johnson and Daschle each issued statements through staff members.
Johnson spokeswoman Julianne Fischer said: "For Bob Novak, a seasoned political commentator, to throw around such allegations is yellow journalism at its worst. Those that say the election was stolen have been proven wrong and are serving up sour grapes over what was a very successful grassroots effort."
Daschle spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said, "The false allegations and efforts to intimidate voters on the reservations were a very dark moment in South Dakota politics."
Novak's statement alludes to the increased voter turnout on South Dakota's Indian reservations in the 2002 general election and to criminal investigations into some forged and allegedly forged voter registration applications that were detected before the election.
Secretary of State Chris Nelson, a Republican, said Thursday that despite Johnson's razor-thin margin of victory and the attempts at fraudulent voter registration, South Dakota's 2002 election was not compromised.
"There were no stuffed ballot boxes in South Dakota's 2002 election," Nelson said. "We all know there were attempts at voter registration fraud. I'm confident our county auditors and the law enforcement of this state were able to stop that and that no illegal ballots were cast."
Nelson said investigations into some obviously forged voter registration cards could not be resolved. (See related story.)
Republican Gov. Mike Rounds focused on the practical political considerations.
"I've made it very clear I want to compete for Native American votes. The Democratic Party did a better job than the Republican Party of activating forces on the reservations. Republicans have to work very hard at pointing out our interests at reconciliation," Rounds said. "We've got just as good a shot as the Democrats do in convincing them we have good ideas and ways of improving life on reservations. I think that's what Native Americans are interested in."
Asked whether he found Novak's statements offensive, Rounds replied, "I find it ignorant."
State GOP Chairman Randy Frederick had stronger words, calling Novak's statements "appalling" and "insane."
"There were problems, but they were attributable to one individual. To attempt to tag an entire race is totally out of bounds, uncalled for, discriminatory and shows prejudice," Frederick said. "Voter turnout on reservations went up. That is a good thing."
One tribal official who watched Tuesday's broadcast said she fears such charges could change that.
"That is slander to the Indian people of South Dakota. I hope it doesn't make the people want to quit voting because of how we get called down for what is our right. I would like an apology," Eileen Janis, finance coordinator for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said. "He's a sore loser. They should quit crying around."
Political activist Mary Ann Bear Heels-McGowan of Pierre said her people have suffered such slurs for generations.
"We have been talked about for generations as being the savage heathens, prairie niggers and people that live off the government. We've listened to all of this. We're still walking around. We're survivors," she said. "I think it's a lack of education. He needs to come out here and visit us. I would send him a personal invitation."
Contact Denise Ross at 3943-8438 or email@example.com
Similar to the outrage expressed by Dems toward Hillary, no?
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The Indians Hillary was referring to were from India. These are educated, hard working and motivated immigrants who are trying to better themselves. I would encourage you to visit an Indian reservation and contrast the two cultures. The differences are not insignificant.
They do live off the government. Government provides them housing and living allowances. Are people supposed to be "educated" not to mention what is fact?
Keyword "Thune" a couple of pages in, scroll down to the middle for many more stories from late 2002 about the election fraud.
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