Much has been made this campaign season about the best way to woo black voters.
Hillary Clinton has seized on police violence against blacks, telling the NAACP this summer that police have to “stop the killings of African Americans.” Donald Trump says the Democratic Party has “failed and betrayed the African American community” and he’s offering blacks “a much better future.”
In New York, state senate candidate Jon Girodes is taking a different route: The Republican is offering black voters fried chicken, Kool-Aid and watermelon.
Girodes is a candidate in New York’s 30th Senate District, which includes the historically black communities of Harlem and East Harlem.
A month before Election Day, reporters for New York’s NBC 4 were exchanging emails with Girodes about a disputed real estate deal. Apparently unprompted, Girodes wrote at the bottom of one email to NBC 4:
“Ps I’m hosting an event in Harlem which will be in front of the state building in a few weeks. We will [donate] Kool Aid, KFC and watermelons to the public on 125th street in Harlem. Please join us to help the community.”
NBC 4, not missing an opportunity, printed Girodes’s statement on a large placard and took it to the city streets, talking to residents about the comments.
“It’s racist,” Tyrone Nero told the station during an interview on 125th Street. “Whoever he is, I think he should go back in whatever hole he crawled in and have a great life.”
Girodes did not return messages from The Washington Post seeking comment. His campaign website appeared to be down, along with his campaign’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and YouTube channel.
In his response to NBC 4, he said his words weren’t offensive.
“What I think is anyone who gives free food to people is doing them a favor,” he said, according to the station. “Get a bunch of people who say it’s offensive and let me go into their neighborhood and give it out for free and see if they take it.”
Inexplicably, he also sent an NBC 4 reporter a shirtless picture.
“Run with it and have fun,” the text beneath it said. “My gift to you :-)”
— NBC New York (@NBCNewYork) October 12, 2016
State Sen. Bill Perkins (D), who is defending his seat against Girodes, said “it’s important to out [Girodes’s remarks] not just to denounce him but to set a tone in this neighborhood and in this city that this type of offense does not go unchallenged.”
Earlier this year, the Huffington Post published an article headlined “Here Are 13 Examples of Donald Trump Being Racist.” Trump has accused a judge of being biased because of his Mexican heritage. During the Democratic National Convention, when the father of a Muslim soldier killed in the line of duty criticized Trump, the Republican nominee posited that the man’s wife, who stood beside him, wasn’t allowed to allowed to have anything to say.
In New York, some potential voters seemed to be taking Girodes’s comments in stride.
“If this is true it is beyond ignorant and he has no place in public office,” one man wrote on NBC4’s Facebook page. “That being said, I personally love watermelon and fried chicken, so please keep me posted on the dates and locations of these events. Thanks.”