There’s been some controversy surrounding CPAC this year over the presence of speakers allegedly associated with “white nationalism”; Ryan Reilly’s write-up at TPM gives a flavor of how liberal sites are covering this (though you’ll find much more hyperventilating elsewhere on the left side of the web). ProEnglish director Robert Vandervoort, as mentioned in Reilly’s report, has been the target of some of this. Vandervoort was on a panel on immigration this morning; Elise Foley’s Huffington Post item on the panel focuses on how pro-immigration Competitive Enterprise Institute policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh was booed, and notes that “Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), the other panelist who might have argued for immigration reform to give status to some undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, was a no-show at the event.”
I emailed Diaz-Balart’s press secretary, Ruth Guerra, to ask why her boss didn’t show up, and whether it had anything to do with the controversy over Vandervoort. Her reply: “It was a mistake on the schedule, the Congressman was not scheduled to participate in a panel today. No controversy, just a mistake on the schedule.” She didn’t respond when I followed up to ask where the Congressman actually was this morning, after answering my first question within minutes; make of that what you will. UPDATE: Guerra, apologizing for the delay (she says she has a guest in town), emails that Diaz-Balart flew to Miami after votes on Thursday.
Nowrasteh, for his part, tells me that he talked to Vandervoort privately before the panel, and asked about the charges that he has a history as an organizer for a racist organization; Vandervoort said that the charges are untrue and that he does not share the odious views of the people who he’s been linked to. Given that the most serious charges against Vandervoort are coming from an obscure organization called the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights that seems to specialize in accusing the Tea Party of being a racist movement, I’m inclined to think, absent further evidence, that Vandervoort has been unfairly smeared. UPDATE: To be clear, if Vandervoort indeed organized events for an American Renaissance affiliate in Chicago, as a contemporaneous memo from a critical organization suggests, he should explicitly and publicly renounce his old associates; that’s a crowd that no one should touch with a ten foot pole.