Despite numerous reports on The Daily Beast detailing how Audra Shay seemingly approved when a friend on Facebook implied that the Obama administration was run by “mad coons” and made other hateful comments on the social-networking site, the Louisiana resident and military veteran was elected chairman of the Young Republicans at their convention on Saturday. The campaign was nasty, fueled by sexually tinged accusations, and left the Young Republicans organization in a large degree of disarray.
When the governor’s spokesman was asked, as a followup, whether Jindal still supported his chosen candidate, Shay, as chairman of the Young Republicans, there was no response.
More interesting, however, is how the national Republican leadership is treating Shay’s election. Specifically, with silence. Despite Shay’s new position as the face of the young GOP (even though she's 38) and her social media track record, which even when viewed in the best light is offensive and encourages hate, none of the party’s leaders contacted by The Daily Beast would call on Shay to step down, or even apologize, or publicly explain her remarks.
Chief among them is Governor Bobby Jindal, who publicly endorsed Shay. Last week, as the “coons” controversy emerged, Jindal’s office did not respond to several requests for comment.
Yesterday, Jindal finally issued a statement. “I oppose all racism and all racist comments," he said. When the governor’s spokesman was asked, as a followup, whether Jindal still supported his chosen candidate as chairman of the Young Republicans, there was no response. Left unsaid was whether Jindal regards any of Shay’s comments as racist.
That’s quite a nuanced position for a person still regarded as a possible presidential candidate in 2012. But Jindal was hardly alone among GOP bigwigs in his silence on whether he supports the leader of the party’s under-40 arm. Spokespeople for Newt Gingrich and House Minority Leader John Boehner declined to comment. A representative for Mitt Romney, who addressed the Young Republicans convention in 2007, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the GOP’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, House Whip Eric Cantor, National Republican Congressional Committee head Pete Sessions, former GOP party head and current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour or another Louisianan, Senator David Vitter.
Several phone calls and emails to spokespeople for Michael Steele, who hobnobbed with Young Republicans in Indiana this weekend and has repeatedly called on the Republican Party to reach out to minorities and immigrants, were not returned.
The only thing approaching criticism came from an early supporter of Shay (who in turn supported him when he won his seat), Louisiana Rep. Joseph Cao, whose district is predominantly African American. In a statement, Cao said:
"I do not condone the irresponsibility of Audra's comments. When I endorsed her in March, I did so with the expectation that she would be an advocate for all Young Republicans. As an immigrant and the nation's first Vietnamese-American congressman, and the national representative for a district that is 64 percent African American, it is important to me that the future leaders of both political parties understand the importance of the inclusion of minorities in the political process. Americans of all backgrounds are affected by the state of the economy, the debate over health care, and national security. Our national leaders should focus on the issues than on personal attacks against President Obama. I ask that Audra publicly denounce all racially insensitive comments and pledge (or pass a resolution) to commit the organization to doing more to improve race relations."
Despite asking Shay to denounce the remarks, a spokesperson for Cao said that the congressman would not call on her to resign from her position, a decision that he believes should be left to the group itself.
Founded in 1859, the Young Republicans bill themselves as "the oldest political youth organization in the United States." The group is open to 18- to 40-year-olds and seeks to register Republicans and persuade voters. Despite the silence of their leaders, many members of the Young Republicans have complained about Shay's election, which she won by a vote of 470-415. “They just took a vote that may have set the party back 30 years,” the co-founder of HipHopRepublican.com, Lenny McAllister, told The Daily Beast's John Avlon. She also drew a condemnation from prominent young Republican (lower case “y”) Meghan McCain, who wrote in The Daily Beast that Shay “represents the same old stereotypes about 'young Republicans'—apparently racist and more middle-aged than youthful.”