MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has ousted the chairman of its Vermont affiliate over an essay he wrote likening a "Pure Vermont" campaign slogan by the losing gubernatorial candidate to the Nazi leadership's emphasis on pure German ethnicity.
The federal commission voted in Washington on Friday to dismiss Curtiss Reed Jr. from his post as chairman of its State Advisory Committee, also citing remarks he made in a 2008 Vermont Public Radio interview criticizing the Bush administration.
Reed's essay appeared in the Oct. 20 Brattleboro Reformer and on the website vtdigger.org and said the slogan of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie was tantamount to genocide.
"Brian Dubie's 'Pure Vermont' brand is another example of cross-cultural blundering," Reed wrote. "Presumably, the slogan refers to Vermont's agricultural products and environmental legacy. But for many Vermonters, these words denote racial, religious and cultural oppression. They imply that Vermont is a place reserved for white Christians."
"'Pure Vermont' raises the specter of Hitler's Aryan Nation and the Khmer Rouge where the purifying agent was genocide," Reed wrote.
Reed, of Brattleboro, released copies of e-mails between him and Martin Dannenfelser, staff director with the civil rights commission, in which Dannenfelser said members found Reed's comments about Dubie's slogan "very troubling."
"Taken together," Dannenfelser wrote, "commissioners are concerned that you have used these public platforms to impugn the motives of Mr. Dubie and the Bush administration and, in the case of Mr. Dubie, to associate his views with those of avowed racists and mass murderers."
Dubie, the lieutenant governor who lost narrowly to Democrat Peter Shumlin Nov. 2, released a statement through his office Tuesday defending the slogan.
"Pure Vermont is about the people and products that make Vermont great, and it's a message Vermonters have responded warmly to, all over our state. It's a positive message and welcoming message."
Reed maintained in his essay, and in interviews Tuesday, that the slogan illustrated Dubie's insensitivity to Vermont's growing diversity, and that many of its new residents would hear the slogan differently from the descendants of families that had been in the state for generations.
"If the audience to which he was speaking was exclusively native-born, sugar-mapling families in Vermont then his campaign slogan would not be a problem," Reed said. "But we live in an increasingly diverse community here in Vermont. People, both in terms of their religious backgrounds and cultural heritages that are here, are from populations who have been victims of purification campaigns in their home countries."
Reed, 56, aside from serving until Friday in his unpaid role as state advisory committee chairman, is executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, a civil rights advocacy group. He said he twice tried to raise concerns with Dubie's campaign, in May and again in October, about the "Pure Vermont" slogan, but got no response.
The national commission is supposed to vote to grant charters to each of 51 state advisory committees every two years, though that process has been behind schedule in recent years. Reed said that is partly what prompted him to say in the 2008 radio interview that the Bush administration appeared to be engaged in "a systematic effort to restrict the activities of the state advisory committees."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to commission Chairman Gerald Reynolds, an appointee of President George W. Bush, in 2008 and again in 2010, urging that Vermont's state advisory committee be reconvened and put back to work. His 2010 letter noted that during its most recent active period in 2009, it had produced a well regarded report on racial profiling by police agencies in the state.
At Friday's meeting, the federal commission granted the Vermont committee a new two-year charter but voted separately on Reed's reappointment as chairman. Five of eight commission members voted against it, and the others abstained, said commission spokeswoman Lenore Ostrowsky.Tags: