Two members of the White Student Union at Towson University in Maryland aren't backing down after advocating for racial segregation and defending slavery at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.
K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans was giving a presentation at CPAC about how Republicans could reach out more effectively to minorities. Scott Terry, a member of the White Student Union, began challenging Smith about the inclusion of blacks in the GOP's tent, in an exchange captured by the liberal blog ThinkProgress that quickly spread around the Internet.
As seen in the video, Smith responds by citing a letter Frederick Douglass wrote in which he forgave his former owner. Terry interrupted and said, "For giving him shelter and food?" Several people in the audience gasp, though ThinkProgress notes there are also cheers. Terry muttered, "Why can't we just have segregation?" after the exchange, ThinkProgress reported.
When Smith mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Atlantic Wire reports, White Student Union "founder and commander" Matthew Heimbach interrupted that King was a "Marxist," and consequently not welcome.
After the exchange, Terry told The Guardian that he is a descendent of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and that he didn't totally disagree with slavery because it's a "complicated issue." He said, "I can't make one broad statement that categorically it was evil all the time because that's not true."
Terry later told The Blaze that some of his comments were being taken out of context, and that he did not support slavery. However, when it comes to segregating by race, Terry said Americans should have "freedom of association."
Heimbach, who started the White Student Union, has been more confrontational in subsequent interviews.
"Diversity is not a strength," Heimbach told the Baltimore Sun, adding, "We're being displaced from our own country," in reference to immigration. He also told The Blaze that the issue of "forced segregation" should be left to the states.
As The Huffington Post previously reported, Towson University has responded to Heimbach's student group with caution, neither endorsing it nor trying to shut it down. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the White Student Union a "hate group."
Heimbach responded to the label, telling Slate, "You look at the SPLC, as fake as they are, they talk about how patriot groups are increasing in the Obama era. With a black face in charge of the White House, of the federal government, we know it's foreign. We know something isn't right."
According to The Atlantic Wire, 23 members of the White Student Union attended CPAC.
The White Student Union's website announced it would attend CPAC because the group claims the GOP's not conservative enough. "The Republican Establishment will be trotting out only the best and brightest to tell the white socially conservative working class base why they need to support homosexual marriage, corporatism, blank checks for Israel, and amnesty for criminal border jumpers," one blog post said.
CORRECTION, 12:35 p.m.: This article has been updated to correct that Scott Terry said "For giving him shelter and food?" and not "For what? For feeding him and housing him?" as previously reported.