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The truth behind the “Black Exodus” at the RNC

Stacy M. Brown | 4/19/2016, 9 a.m.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is refuting claims that a number of key African-American employees were either fired or forced ...
Telly Lovelace, the New National Director Of Black Initiatives says that the staffers left because of opportunities they simply couldn’t or didn’t want to pass up. (Photo: NNPA)

— The Republican National Committee (RNC) is refuting claims that a number of key African-American employees were either fired or forced to resign and officials are pointing to the hiring of Telly Lovelace, the GOP’s newest liaison to the Black media, as proof that the party remains devoted to diversity.

Lovelace said that the top Black staffers who left did so after being presented with opportunities that could have helped to boost their careers.

“The staff [people] that left were not fired,” he said, countering public comments by Raynard Jackson, a veteran Republican consultant, who recently wrote an op-ed that said that, “these staffers deserved to be fired and it should have happened a long time ago. They were in way over their heads and their level of arrogance was just astonishing.”

Lovelace said that Kristal Quarker-Hartsfield, the former national director of African American Initiatives was with the RNC through the 2014 election cycle and that she left to take a position with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Orlando Watson, the communications director for Black media, resigned at the beginning of March. BuzzFeed News reported that Tara Wall, the senior strategist for media and engagement for the RNC, departed sometime in November and NBCBLK reported that Raffi Williams, the former RNC Deputy Press Secretary, left last year to pursue a job in the media.

“I was not fired, I left and there’s no problems,” Watson said, declining to further elaborate.

Lovelace said that the staffers left because of opportunities they simply couldn’t or didn’t want to pass up, but Jackson remained incredulous about the timing of their exits.

“This time of the year is like the Super Bowl of politics,” said Jackson. “You want to be on a presidential campaign or in the RNC during an election year, because this gives you a close-up view of all these things that are going on. You’ll not only have all the access at the Republican National Convention, but you’ll be privy, to some extent, to the inner workings of the presidential nomination process as well as the inner workings of the RNC.”

Jackson continued: “If you are a true political junkie, this is what you live and breathe for. This is a political junkie’s dream.”

Jackson compared the RNC staff departures to a player in the NBA asking to be traded away from the Golden State Warriors to the Los Angeles Lakers, right before the start of the playoffs.

“If you’re on staff now you’re probably going to be a part of history that probably hasn’t happened in a lifetime, in a generation,” said Jackson, referring to the potential of a contested nomination process set to take place this summer at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

Jackson, who is the founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BABF), a 527 Super PAC established to get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party, also wrote that the former RNC officials were ill-equipped to discuss real solutions to the challenges facing the Black community and that “many in the GOP felt the need to hire Blacks, not because they really wanted to diversify the party, but in some of the party’s thinking, they can’t be called racist because they hired a few Blacks.”