Gov. Nikki Haley made a smart move over the weekend — but she was probably hoping no one would notice.
Haley asked campaign volunteer Roan Garcia-Quintana to step down from her Grassroots Advisory Committee. See, a lot of people think the Upstate resident is, well, a racist. He denies it.
Last week, the National Jewish Democratic Council pointed out Garcia-Quintana's affiliation with the Council of Conservative Citizens — a group that opposes the promotion of “non-white” races over European Americans — and asked the governor to dump him.
At first, Haley campaign manager Tim Pearson refused, and was indignant.
A day later, Haley got involved and asked the Cuban-born American nativist to kindly resign.
You know, this may be the first time Haley has ever backed down over anything.
Jeri Cabot, a College of Charleston political scientist, says there's probably no hidden political calculus here.
“I read it as he was beyond the boundary,” Cabot says. “He really didn't give her or anybody else much of a choice.”
In various interviews floating around on the Internet, Garcia-Quintana touts his European heritage, by way of Cuba, but doesn't come off as a Klansman — unless you think “supporting Caucasian heritage” is a loaded term. He has also referred to Latino immigration as “illegal alien invasion.” And his group — which runs “news” stories suggesting white people are under attack — calls America a “European Nation,” which would be news to actual Native Americans — who might tell you that Europeans were actually the first illegal immigrants. Pearson's about-face was classic. On Friday, he said: “There's nothing racial about this Cuban-American's participation in the political process, nor his support for the first Indian-American governor and the first African-American U.S. senator in South Carolina history.”
Two days later, he said: “There is no place for racially divisive rhetoric in the politics or governance of South Carolina. While we appreciate the support Roan has provided, we were previously unaware of some of the statements he had made, statements which do not well represent the views of the governor.”
Honestly, this is one time you probably can take the Haley camp at its word. They likely didn't know about Garcia-Quintana's questionable political affiliations. But as Cabot says, that's just proof they aren't paying attention. Which is a problem.
The cynical view here is that Haley used the holiday weekend to distance herself some from unnecessary controversy. Self-preservation is nothing new from the governor's office.
But maybe Haley actually didn't want to associate with a guy who holds intolerant views, which would bode well for her political maturity.
Or maybe she just realized it would have looked hypocritical to get indignant about Jake Knotts' “raghead” comment and then ignore this.
Whatever the reason, she did the right thing.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com.