Unapologetically Racist Voter-ID Comments on The Daily Show Fell Republican Official

What not to say when purporting not to be racist

"Matter of fact, one of my best friends is black," Don Yelton told The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi, in a segment about North Carolina's new voter-identification law that aired Wednesday night.

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(The Daily Show)

Yelton was precinct chair of North Carolina's Buncombe County Republican Party, until yesterday. After reassuring Mandvi with some hesitation that he was not racist—well, he had been called a bigot—Yelton went on to say that the voter identification law is not unfair, in that "if [the law] hurts the whites, so be it. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it."

The Republican party felt this performance—which includes other telling comments and spread widely, quickly across the Internet—unsatisfactory, and last night Yelton resigned at their request. "Mr. Yelton's comments are offensive, uninformed, and unacceptable," Buncombe GOP Chairman Henry Mitchell said yesterday. "In no way are his comments representative of the local or state Republican Party."

This type of segment on The Daily Show is heavily edited. At times they're pretty obviously making people look as bad as possible. But even Yelton said this was fair and representative.

"The comments that were made, that I said, I stand behind them. I believe them," he told Jake Frankel of North Carolina's Mountain XPress. "To tell you the truth, there were a lot of things I said that they could've made sound worse than what they put up."

Is that, possible? Also, is that Yelton conceding that he came off poorly? Maybe because the point of the segment was already made—Yelton's racist worldview and its correlation with his anachronistic position on voter-identification laws established—anything more may have felt gratuitous.

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James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk.

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