Log Cabin Republicans | Michelangelo Signorile

Log Cabin Republicans And A Racially Charged Interview

PinkElHave you ever been in the middle of an interview on a globally-broadcast radio show and realized you just said something that, from a certain perspective, probably sounded boneheadedly racist? Have you ever then watched in horror as your public profile was dragged through the gutter and you were stripped of your title in a political organization you've loved and labored in for years? No? Me, neither! But that's the experience Bob Schlein, the just-sacked head of the Dallas Log Cabin Republicans.

Here's what happened: In September, he published an essay in the Dallas Voice entitled "Why I will vote Republican in 2012." The essay earned him an appearance on the Michelangelo Signorile Show on Sirius XM Radio (where, full disclosure, I'm a guest news anchor), where the two men briefly argued about non-discrimination laws. Schlein thinks they're pretty useless. At some point, these words were exchanged (as transcribed by Signorile's people):

Schlein: Texas is a right to work state. So as an employer, which I am, I can fire anyone at will, there’s no such obligation.

Signorile: You can’t fire someone for being black --

Schlein: I can them for whatever reason I want --

Signorile: You cannot fire someone for being African-American...

Schlein: Well, I wouldn’t tell them...

Signorile: Well, you wouldn’t tell them, but you’d do it anyway?

Schlein: Well, I sure wouldn’t tell them... I’d find a reason if I wanted to fire them...

Signorile: You'd find a reason to fire someone because they're black?

Schlein: I'd find a reason if I wanted to fire anybody not respective of race. It's not about race.

You can see how Schlein tried to salvage the exchange at the end there, but it did no good. The national Log Cabin Republicans have sacked Mr. Schlein and dissolved his chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, while simultaneously beginning a new chapter in Dallas under different leadership. Mr. Schlein thinks he was sacked because he was getting too chummy with GoProud. The LCR have their own explanation. According to R. Clarke Cooper, the group's executive director:

When the leadership of one of our chapters chooses to undermine the credibility, effectiveness and mission of Log Cabin Republicans through their actions, we are forced to enact corrective measures for the good of the greater organization. It is unfortunate that the former leadership of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, particularly its president Rob Schlein, have engaged in a consistent pattern of behavior that detracts from the mission of our organization. After all due consideration and efforts at reconciliation, the Board of Directors have decided to begin anew, ensuring that our mission of fighting for freedom can be at its strongest in Dallas and across the country.

Apparently, the national LCR is for anti-discrimination laws, and failing to toe the party line is a very big mistake. Though if you ask me, it probably wouldn't have been as big a mistake if Mr. Schlein hadn't soundly vaguely racist while committing it.

But is Mr. Schlein a racist? It seems like Mr. Schlein was trying to explain that if an employer is racist, anti-discrimination laws won't necessarily stop him from firing someone on account of race. Am I reading this right? Was Mr. Shlein's gaffe a dumb slip of the tongue, or something else?

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  1. It looks like it was just unfortunate wording. But people who do those kinds of gaffs have no place in politics and he deserved what he got.

    Posted by: Kári Emil | Oct 15, 2011 4:13:03 PM

  2. Sounds more like a poorly worded analogy. He is right in a way. Despite anti-discrimination laws, companies can just make up another reason to fire people. And suing to get the job back isn't a good idea.

    The objection should be more about admitting that he would circumvent the law that way. It's wrong behavior, no matter which minority is affected

    Posted by: Steve | Oct 15, 2011 4:25:10 PM

  3. Being a racist is a very big mistake.

    But you wouldn't know what that means sir because you're a Republican.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 15, 2011 4:25:10 PM

  4. The point of non-discrimination laws is to give legal recourse when an employer discriminates. No law can physically stop anybody from doing anything. Mr. Shlein represented Log Cabin, so he should have stuck to their policies and talking points.

    Posted by: ehllo | Oct 15, 2011 4:34:22 PM

  5. I wonder if he will sue LCR for being discriminated against.... lol

    the thing is that the LCR did not have to give ANY explanation why they dissolved his chapter and sacked him, if they thought the same as Schlein...

    but they were kind enough to tell him why... (or maybe they were just doing the right thing, following the law, etc)...

    good luck on the job hunt!

    Posted by: V-8 | Oct 15, 2011 4:41:46 PM

  6. I tend to agree with the general tenor, in that employers will find a reason that doesn't smack of racism, because unless there's an over-arching pattern of behavior (i.e. several minorities being fired without evidence of strong cause in each case), isolated instances won't draw attention.

    Posted by: Jerry | Oct 15, 2011 4:46:49 PM

  7. Wolf! Wolf! Woooooolf!

    Posted by: Max | Oct 15, 2011 4:48:39 PM

  8. There is more to this than meets the eye. In my opinion Mr. Schlein was stating the national party line in reference to discrimination. If that is so, then he was fired for something else. Perhaps someone in the national office wanted an off-the-books-and-under-the-sheets favor and he would not oblige them. But, you can't sue for that, either, as a gay man.

    Posted by: Scott Lumry | Oct 15, 2011 4:51:42 PM

  9. I think they fired him for being an idiot but they just made up a different reason so they didn't look idiot phobic. Right to work state!!

    Posted by: Craig | Oct 15, 2011 5:00:51 PM

  10. That line of questioning was a bit tricky and a bit loaded. What he was trying to say that if he wanted to fire someone for being black he could, but he doesn't have to state that they were black. He could make up any excuse in the book. They shouldn't have dissolved his entire chapter over some vague wording through trick questioning. There is more than meets the eye going on here.

    Posted by: Robert | Oct 15, 2011 5:03:54 PM

  11. Craig: You made me giggle. Thank you. - BKT

    Posted by: Brandon K. Thorp | Oct 15, 2011 5:08:59 PM

  12. Whats going on Robert is BLATANT RACISM!!!!!!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 15, 2011 5:11:04 PM

  13. He could have avoided the charge of racism simply being framing his responses as "Someone could".

    Posted by: Cassandra | Oct 15, 2011 5:20:10 PM

  14. @ROBERT ... "Trick questioning"? Are you serious? The questions were straight forward. All the guy needed to do was NOT use the first person in his answers. Instead of saying "I can fire them for whatever reason", say "the employer can fire them for whatever reason".

    Posted by: RJ | Oct 15, 2011 5:30:17 PM

  15. I think he was baited by MS (Schlein didn't bring up race) and didn't catch it until too late. I also think there was another reason the National Log Cabin group wanted to fire him and/or reorganize Dallas and took this as a convienent opportunity (notice the words "consistent pattern" in their explanation).

    The thing to take away from all this is that in a right to work situation, one can be fired without cause and unless there is a clear pattern (new owner of the business who comes in and fires a group of people with a common demoninator (race, gender etc.)) its nearly impossible to get justice.

    I find it hard to believe Schlein set out to be racist, but he def needed to be more wary of his interviewer. That level of cluelessness can't be tolerated in a leader.

    Posted by: Roger | Oct 15, 2011 5:35:25 PM

  16. Truthfully, there's nothing wrong with his answer. It's daily practice I'm sure.

    Swap out the race for orientation & perhaps it will be easier to see. Happens all the time & is exactly the reason people need laws to protect them in the workplace.

    Race & taxes... ever the 3rd Rail of politics. I agree w/ other posters, there's more happ'nin here than this interview.

    Posted by: pete N SFO | Oct 15, 2011 5:39:29 PM

  17. I hate the LCR, but Dallas has to be one of their biggest, most profitable locations. Count me in that they've wanted to get rid of him for a while.

    Posted by: Paul R | Oct 15, 2011 5:49:39 PM

  18. Oh so they wanted to get rid of him for some "important" reason -- BLATANT RACISM being of course totally unimportant to Republicans.


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 15, 2011 6:00:50 PM

  19. David, do you need a hug?

    Posted by: Max | Oct 15, 2011 6:03:54 PM

  20. I think Schlein was simply stating a fact rather than advocating the content of the fact. For instance, I could go on air and state that "you can fire gays for whatever reason you want in Texas". It doesn't mean that I personally support the firing of gays for any reason, it simply reflects the fact that there are no anti-discrimination laws in the state of Texas that would protect a gay person from being fired simply because the boss doesn't like homosexuality.

    Facts need to be stated no matter how unpleasant they are. The only way we will overcome prejudice is by facing facts and stating them loud and clear.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 15, 2011 6:19:31 PM

  21. Blatant racism would be refusing to hire an African-American in the first place, or to avoid legal complications hiring the minimum number required to avoid an EEOC lawsuit.

    The facts are, in a right to work state you can be fired for any reason, legal or illegal, just so long as the employer doesn't state that the illegal reason is the reason you're being fired.

    There are companies that will fire an employee if they are determined to be or suspected to be gay. But only an idiot HR guy would say, "we think you're gay so we're letting you go."

    Many years ago, I worked for a convenience store company headquartered in Georgia whose unwritten policy was to not hire blacks or gays or Paks (Pakistani). Blacks were hired of course, but not kept around very long. Anyone suspected of being gay was also fired soon after discovery, but they were fired for other reasons. Same with folks "suspected" of theft. You didn't tell them you were terminating them because you thought they were a thief, you used another excuse.

    Schlein was just stating facts. His problem is he stated them wrong and made it sound as if he himself advocated or practiced firing someone based on race. I think Schlein may be himself experiencing first hand the right to work inequity.

    Posted by: Bob R | Oct 15, 2011 6:20:13 PM

  22. Jason, you're wasting your time explaining it to them. They're having far too much fun being offended.

    Posted by: Max | Oct 15, 2011 6:22:27 PM

  23. I need a hug from Gregoire LePrince-Ringuet, Max.

    And a whole lot more.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 15, 2011 6:54:58 PM

  24. What these idiots don't understand is that going against anti-discrimination law is essentially giving permission to employers to fire people for being a different race, or disabled, or gay.

    Posted by: Bravo | Oct 15, 2011 7:09:08 PM

  25. What these people DO understand is that cicumventing anti-discrimination laws is the best way to practice racism.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 15, 2011 7:15:03 PM

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