GOP councilman criticized for blackface

Nov. 10, 2012 at 1:04 PM
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ROSENDALE, N.Y., Nov. 10 (UPI) -- A Republican official in New York state says a GOP colleague who wore blackface for Halloween hurt the party the same way U.S. lawmakers' remarks on rape have.

Michael Caponero, a court officer in Rosendale, N.Y., 90 miles north of New York City, told the Kingston, N.Y., Daily Freeman he was disturbed when he saw a party photograph on Facebook of town Councilman Robert Ryan Ryan made up as rapper and reality TV personality Flavor Flav.

The photo, published by the Freeman Saturday, shows Ryan wearing black makeup on his face and hands, a capped front tooth, Afro-textured braids, multiple rings on his fingers, oversize glasses and a large clock dangling from his neck. The jewelry was customary for Flavor Flav when he was a member of the hip-hop group Public Enemy.

Caponero -- who characterized himself as "a lifelong Republican" -- told the newspaper Ryan's getup hurt the GOP in the same way as controversial remarks on rape by Republican U.S. Senate nominees in Missouri and Indiana.

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri provoked a firestorm when he said women who are victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant. Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock said that if a raped woman became pregnant, that was "something that God intended to happen."

Akin and Mourdock lost to Democrats in Tuesday's election.

"Republicans have bad enough names already [with statements] about rapists," Caponero told the Freeman. "Here, [Ryan] is dressed up in blackface -- that's all we need."

Ryan, a 53-year-old state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision plant manager elected to a four-year council term in 2011, told the newspaper he was disappointed anyone would "make a racial thing out of this."

"If I thought that there was anything awkward or crazy about it, or stupid or vindictive or discriminating, as an elected official, do you really think I would have dressed up as Flavor Flav?" Ryan told the Freeman.

"I have so many black friends who would stand up for me in a heartbeat," he said.

Ellenville, N.Y., NAACP chapter President Maude Bruce told the newspaper she considered Ryan's blackface use racist and she planned to call him to learn more about his intent.

"As a councilman for Rosendale, I think it's totally inappropriate because he represents all people there," Bruce said.

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