National spotlight

Photo of Don Yelton by Jake Frankel
Photo of Don Yelton by Jake Frankel

Local conservative activist Don Yelton set off a firestorm when he appeared on national television Oct. 23 and made comments that were construed as racist by viewers across the country.

As part of a segment on controversial new voter ID laws in North Carolina and other states across the South, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a renowned comedy show, featured an interview with Yelton.

"The law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt," Yelton asserted, in contradiction to Republican party leaders who have argued the law isn't about partisanship. "If it hurts a bunch of college kids that are too lazy to get up off their bohonkas and go get a photo ID, then so be it. If it hurts a bunch of whites, so be it. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, then so be it," Yelton continued.

In another exchange, Daily Show field reporter Aasif Mandvi sought to clarify that the law and Yelton are "not racist." However, Yelton responded with several long seconds of introspection, replying: "'Well, I've been called a bigot before." He went on to bemoan the notion that it's acceptable for black people to use the term "nigger" but not for others to do so.

The Daily Show presented Yelton as a "NC Republican Executive Committee member." But Yelton reports that he didn't have the blessing of — or even discuss — the media interview with the county party or state GOP beforehand. The next day, both party organizations disavowed Yelton's comments and called on him to resign his position as a precinct chair.

Yelton soon obliged, saying he would step down from the job. However, he told Xpress he had no regrets about what he said on The Daily Show. "The comments that were made, that I said, I stand behind them. I believe them," he declared.

The drama drew attention from across the country, with Xpress' online coverage (visit: http://avl.mx/02a) cited by The Atlantic, Politico, The Rachel Maddow Show and other national media outlets.

Here's a sample of what some readers had to say about the issue via Mountainx.com:

Let's stop pretending; this man is not a "longtime conservative activist." He is a longtime racist activist dressed in conservative clothing. I am so grateful to The Daily Show for exposing him. — Ginger Maniscalco

I'll go out on a limb and say that he espouses the thought process that most of the extremist right-wing activists believe. They just don't like the fact that he actually said it in front of a camera. — CJ Hardin

At least Don Yelton was honest. … Ice-T would be proud of Yelton [for] keeping it real. — William Schmidt

The Daily Show cut up a two-hour interview into some nice sound bites to make Yelton look like a fool (granted, not hard) and misrepresented his position with the NCGOP because they aren't a legitimate news service and you people think this is brilliant. — Mat Katastroph

Yelton is not extreme. He is expressing ideas and beliefs that are very common amongst Republicans. He is exactly representative of the Republican party. He is not wise enough and just doesn't care about the unspoken rule — you are not supposed to actually share your true thoughts about those issues. — Jeff Fleagle

In business there is an adage, "If you want to keep your employees from talking to you, you can do it. It is getting them to talk to you that is difficult – and in the long run most beneficial." Don Yelton was temporarily silenced, but his message will be back to haunt those who silenced him. — Charles Goines

He revealed what a lot of GOPers know full well but have been denying: The Voter ID act is intended to suppress Democrat-leaning voter turnout, especially African-Americans. … This is the biggest reason they are throwing Don under the bus, not the simple racism he expressed, but the fact that he tied it directly to the intention of the Voter ID act. — bsummers

Don Yelton just brought the BCGOP to a whole new level of notoriety. What a display. — Dionysis

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