OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma Black Legislative Caucus called on Gov. Frank Keating today to apologize and retract his accusation that racism by Democrats killed his appointment of black newspaper publisher Russell Perry as secretary of commerce.
Members of the caucus said it actually is Keating that is engaging in racism by making the accusation.
"For an affluent white male like Frank Keating to imply that an African-American woman is a racist simply because she objects to a political appointee is disrespectful, insulting and wrong," said Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City.
On Thursday, Keating paid a visit to the office of Sen. Angela Monson, D-Oklahoma City, to demand that she hold a hearing of her finance committee on Perry's nomination.
Although Monson is black, Keating said she is furthering a "racist" stand by Senate leaders by refusing to allow her committee to consider the nomination.
The Republican governor said if Perry is not confirmed, "it is clearly a racist statement and I think that is unacceptable.
"This is a statement: Oklahoma must put aside its racist past," the governor said.
Monson said she found it offensive for Keating to assert that she, as a black senator, was subservient to a white Democratic senate leader.
Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, said Keating had "inappropriately tried to interject race into a policy debate, but given his track record of offensive public statements, I'm not surprised."
Monson said it would be a waste of taxpayer money to confirm the nomination of the Black Chronicle publisher.
She said she consulted several of her colleagues, including members of the black caucus, about their views on confirming Perry.
"Most of the people who spoke to me felt that the state was just creating a job with no responsibilities, unless you count the duplicate duties that are already being performed by the director of the Commerce Department," Monson said.
"We could probably hire a good economic recruiter for what they're paying Mr. Perry," she said. "This appointment not only wastes money, it also causes management problems."
At today's news conference, Monson said she would oppose any nomination to the post, other than the current executive director, because of the issue of duplication.
Perry, who was appointed last summer, said he thought Keating's racism charge was "a remark about reverse discrimination. This is reverse discrimination."
He said that as a conservative Republican whose newspaper's editorial policy is often at odds with Democrats, he has drawn the ire of members of the Black Legislative Caucus, made up of four Democrats.
Black Caucus members said they had taken no position on Perry's appointment, other than to support whatever Monson decided.
But some members said they had a problem with Perry and his editorial positions. "I have a concern about Russell Perry's views on right to work," caucus chairman Rep. Don Ross, D-Tulsa, said. Perry supports a right-to-work law. Ross opposes one.
Rep. Kevin Cox, D-Oklahoma City, said he opposed Perry for several reasons. He said Perry had "chastised" caucus members editorially for taking positions that help people in their districts.
"This is not a black on black thing," Cox said.
Perry makes $40,000 a year as secretary of commerce and is serving on a part-time basis, a Keating spokesman said.
Keating issued a news release late Thursday saying blacks" should be outraged by the return of Jim Crow to Oklahoma by Senator Taylor and his leadership team."
He called Perry an extremely well qualified businessman who is serving the state for "a very modest salary."
Toure called Keating's comments "outrageous and sexist."