Four African American pastors representing three Charlotte churches have written “reference letters” in support of U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who famously opined that those protesting the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott were acting out of “hate” and jealousy of white people.
Pittenger, a Republican who represents Charlotte, has since apologized for those remarks.
In an email sent out on Thursday, Pittenger attached copies of letters signed by the Rev. Phillip R.J. Davis and the Rev. Cynthia L. Davis of Nations Ford Community Church, the Rev. Robyn Gool of Victory Christian Center, and the Rev. Charles Edward Mack Sr. of Progressive Baptist Church.
The letters all stopped short of endorsing Pittenger’s reelection campaign, nor did they defend his controversial remarks. Rather, they spoke of decades-long relationships – and even friendships – with Pittenger, who has represented North Carolina’s 9th congressional district since 2013.
Mack, who described himself as a “darker hue person,” wrote that he has known Pittenger for more than 30 years and considers him a “close friend.” Mack wrote that while he could not offer “an escape” for Pittenger’s remarks, he said the comment did not represent the Pittenger he has come to know.
“I am praying that those kinds of issues, should not be allowed to destroy good folks,” Mack wrote. “Jealousy is obviously felt when you look at how, certain privileges are restricted to the lighter hue community, and not shared across other communities, privileges which supports and basically guarantees success, so I hope that we can be honest [sic] speak truths and still keep our friends in proper fellowship.”
In a joint letter signed by both, R.J. Davis and his mother, Cynthia Davis, wrote of Pittenger’s support of the Male Leadership Academy of Charlotte, a private school founded by the late Bishop Phillip Davis, who died in August 2015. Pittenger serves on the board of advisors for the school.
“It is with sincerity that we acknowledge your integrity and character as a public servant to all people in the Charlotte Community and the state of North Carolina,” the Davises wrote.” Based on the relationship established over the years, we have come to know you as a person of high moral character and ethical fortitude with a heart of compassion.”
Gool, at Victory Christian Center, wrote that he has known Pittenger for more than 25 years as a “friend and a supporter of the African-American church and community.”
Gool wrote that Pittenger’s record “is one of integrity, diligence and a continual effort towards the bettering of our city, state and nation.”
Pittenger made his controversial remarks during an interview with BBC-TV while hundreds of angry protesters were marching daily through the streets of uptown Charlotte. When Pittenger was asked how he would characterize the “chief grievance” of the protesters, he said, “The grievance in their mind is, the animus, the anger — they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not. I mean, yes, it is. It is a welfare state. We have — we have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, where we put people in bondage so that they can’t be all that they’re capable of being.”
The N.C. Democratic Party called Pittenger’s comments “racist.”
The Rev. William J. Barber II, leader of the North Carolina NAACP, noted, correctly, that the Charlotte protest movement was decidedly multi-racial and multi-generational in its makeup.
Pittenger later apologized on Twitter, saying his answer “doesn’t reflect who I am. I was quoting statements made by angry protesters last night on national TV. My intent was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African Americans because of failed policies.”
Pittenger will face Democrat Christian Cano in the Nov. 8 general election.
Watch the video of Pittenger’s comments below:
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) September 22, 2016