Kasie Hunt, NBC News, April 3, 2014
The chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party said Thursday that the state senator challenging Republican Sen. Thad Cochran should explain why he was listed as a keynote speaker at an event that included a group that sells “white pride” merchandise.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Cochran, had been listed as a speaker at the Combined Firearm Freedom Day/Tea Party Music Fest in Guntown, Miss., on May 17. Listed as a vendor at the rally is Pace Confederate Depot, a group that “deals in Confederate, Tea Party, and White Pride Merchandise,” according to its website.
McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said Thursday that McDaniel would not attend. “Chris McDaniel never agreed to attend the event and will not attend the event,” he said.
Mississippi GOP chairman Joe Nosef told NBC News Thursday that McDaniel should clarify whether he supported the group.
“I think he should clear it up as fast as he can,” Nosef said. “Running for the United States Senate is a very important thing and as a party we need to always be careful and focused and serious about what our views are and what our interests are. And if Sen. McDaniel thinks that there’s more to tell, to explain it, my thought as the party chairman would be, the sooner the better.”
Pace Confederate Depot is just one of many groups listed as attendees at the event, billed as a “Battle for the Constitution”; also included are tea party and liberty groups. A new version of the graphic advertising the event does not include McDaniel’s name as a speaker.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Pace Confederate Depot as an “active white nationalist group,” and owner Brian Pace told a Mississippi TV station last year that “whenever we had racial segregation, things were much better off.”
Asked if white nationalist rhetoric had a place in the state’s Republican Party, Nosef said: “No. Absolutely not.”