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Tea Party Leader Says He Misspoke About Black Voters

UPDATED: Dallas Tea Party leader Ken Emanuelson says he misspoke when he said last month that Republicans don't want to encourage blacks to vote because they overwhelmingly support Democrats. State GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri had said Emanuelson's remarks don't reflect the party's position.

Steve Munisteri campaigning for Texas GOP chairman.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Dallas Tea Party leader Ken Emanuelson said Tuesday that he misspoke when he told an activist last month that Republicans don't want blacks to vote because they overwhelmingly support Democrats.

"That was a mistake," he said in an email. "I hold no position of authority within the Republican Party and it wasn't my place to opine on behalf of the desires of the Republican Party."

Emanuelson's earlier comments had provoked a storm of criticism from Democrats and a rebuke from the chairman of the state GOP, Steve Munisteri, who said they did not reflect his position or the party's.

The Tea Party leader was speaking at a May 20 meeting of Republicans in Dallas. In an audio recording of the remarks, distributed to news outlets Tuesday by Democrats, an activist can be heard asking Emanuelson what the party is doing to attract black voters to the GOP ticket.

“I’m going to be real honest with you,” Emanuelson responded. “The Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they are going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats.”

The activist said he took that to mean the GOP had given up on black voters. Emanuelson did not disagree.

“We have a lot of work to do in that community, and it has been written off and we need to change that,” Emanuelson said. “Now we’re not going to change that by 2014, but we might be able to change it if we start now in years in the future. But it’s not going to be soon.”

Democrats blasted Emanuelson and promptly used his remarks as part of a fundraising campaign for Battleground Texas, a group dedicated to breaking the Republican lock on state politics. 

“Well, I am going to be real honest with you, Mr. Emanuelson — the Republican Party discounts communities of color at their own peril and attacks like these only serve to embolden us for the long road ahead,” U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, wrote in a message to Battleground Texas supporters.

Munisteri, the state GOP chairman, said he spoke at the same event, organized by the Dallas County Republican Party, but did not hear Emanuelson address the audience.

“It doesn’t reflect the Republican Party of Texas’ position, and it doesn’t reflect my position,” Munisteri said of the remarks. He added that the strategy of ignoring black voters has “backfired” and told The Texas Tribune that he is about to launch an effort to target “several hundred thousand African-American households” that the party believes have a propensity to vote Republican.

“It is immoral to ignore large segments of the population with our message,” Munisteri said. “If we think our message is good for one community, then it should be spread to all communities.”

In an email sent to the Tribune, Emanuelson still said he believed it was "not in the interests of the Republican Party to spend its own time and energy working to generally increase the number of Democratic voters at the polls, and at this point in time, nine out of every ten African American voters cast their votes for the Democratic Party." 

But he said he should have made it clear that he was expressing his "personal opinion" and not speaking for the party.

The fundraising appeal provided a link to the 16-second audio bite of Emanuelson's remarks. Upon request, Battleground Texas provided a link to the full audio of the remarks.

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