MILWAUKEE, July 14 (Reuters) – The head of the Republican Party issued a sweeping apology to American blacks on Thursday for a decades-old practice of writing off their vote and using racial polarization to win elections.
Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman said civil rights legislation pushed by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s solidified black support for that party for decades after that «and we Republicans did not effectively reach out.»
«Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization,» he added. «I am here as Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.»
Mehlman was the highest-ranking Republican to address the convention of the NAACP, the oldest and largest U.S. civil rights organization, an annual meeting that President George W. Bush has declined invitations to since he took office. He has spoken to selected black audiences.
NAACP leaders have been critical of Bush for not appearing before them. While he did speak to the group when he was running for his first term, he has not returned, something that has not happened with a sitting president in more than 70 years.(reuters)