NBC's Gregory Grills DeMint on GOP 'Intolerance' and 'Racist Comments'

Talking to Heritage Foundation president and former Republican Senator Jim DeMint on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory eagerly cited recent criticism of the GOP: "Colin Powell on this program a couple of weeks ago talking about a deep vein of intolerance within the Republican Party. How do you respond to that as you take a look at where the party needs to go?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

DeMint refused to give credence to the accusation, instead focusing on the issues of debt reduction and economic growth. However, Gregory refused to the let the topic go: "Senator, do you regret, you know, some of the comments about abortion in this last cycle, about rape, about again, what Colin Powell thought were veiled racist comments from the party?" At no point did Gregory provide a single example of GOP "intolerance" to back up the smear.  

Since DeMint did not go along with his assertions, Gregory turned to NAACP President Ben Jealous for comment. Jealous predictably bashed Republicans:

But the real question for the GOP is whether they're willing to give up on the gasoline that has been the old Dixiecrat rhetoric that they've indulged in for the past 40 years. And when he talked about those bizarre and insulting comments, that's what he's talking about. Playing to the cheap seats again and again and again. They need to stop. They need to say, "Look, you know, we have an old brand as the Grand Old Party, the party of Lincoln, the party of Kemp, the party of people who united this country again and again. Let's be that. And let's stop trying to be these Dixiecrats. Because it just doesn't work for anybody."


Here is transcript of the January 27 exchange:

11:08AM ET

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: Senator DeMint, part of the calculation for Republicans is where do they push? Where do they fight? What battles do they pick? And this is part of a period of self-examination for the party that you're a part of as well. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, spoke out, was outspoken on Thursday, talking to Republicans. Here's part of what he said.

BOBBY JINDAL: We've got to stop being the stupid party. And I'm serious, it's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. It's time for us to articulate our plans and our visions for America in real terms. It's no secret we had a number of Republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I here to say we've had enough of that.

GREGORY: He's arguing that that's getting in the way. Colin Powell on this program a couple of weeks ago talking about a deep vein of intolerance within the Republican Party. How do you respond to that as you take a look at where the party needs to go?

JIM DEMINT: I talked to Governor Jindal yesterday, because we're on the same page of where we need to go. He knows that spending more than we're bringing in and this debt is a moral argument that we need to connect with the American people. And not just in numbers, but we need to help people see that what we're doing here in Washington, the politicians are the real takers, because they're taking the future away. Every paycheck is going to be worth less. And the future of our children with the debt on their head is – means that the opportunities that they could have are going to be diminished.

GREGORY: That's not quite what he was speaking of there. What he's talking about is how the brand positions itself, how it reaches out to people.

DEMINT: I'm not going to speak for Republicans. And one of the reasons I left Congress is because I don't believe that politicians are going to solve our problems unless the American people force them to. They're going to keep spending and borrowing in Washington. They're going to keep implementing policies, as [NAACP President] Ben [Jealous] just said, that hurt minorities. They're worse off. And we can go to Detroit and Philadelphia and Chicago, where these liberal progressive policies have been in place for decades, and you see Latinos and African Americans in failing schools, with high unemployment. What we're going to do, and I know what Governor Jindal is going to do along with a lot of other governors, is show the success stories where the right ideas are implemented. And we're going to show the failures in Detroit and Philadelphia and L.A.

GREGORY: Ben, comment before we go to break here.

BEN JEALOUS: [PRESIDENT, NAACP]: Look, you know, there are places where we can clearly work together. Criminal justice reform is one of them.

But the real question for the GOP is whether they're willing to give up on the gasoline that has been the old Dixiecrat rhetoric that they've indulged in for the past 40 years. And when he talked about those bizarre and insulting comments, that's what he's talking about. Playing to the cheap seats again and again and again. They need to stop. They need to say, "Look, you know, we have an old brand as the Grand Old Party, the party of Lincoln, the party of Kemp, the party of people who united this country again and again. Let's be that. And let's stop trying to be these Dixiecrats. Because it just doesn't work for anybody."

GREGORY: Senator, do you regret, you know, some of the comments about abortion in this last cycle, about rape, about again, what Colin Powell thought were veiled racist comments from the party?

DEMINT: Well, David, the fact that we are losing over 3,000 unborn children a day is an important issue. But Republicans or conservatives should not engage in a debate about exceptions for abortions when the other side will not even agree that we have real people, real human beings. And we need to fight the battle where it should be fought. Life is important. We know from all of the new technology and improved sonograms that we do have a baby. And it's important that we fight for that. But instead of just offering my opinion on some hypothetical debate about exceptions for abortions, we need to move it back and particularly work with the states that are fighting for just the personhood of the child. And if we can start there, I think America will move with us.

GREGORY: Alright. A little different than the question about rhetoric and how it reaches voters.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC