An NAACP leader in North Carolina said Tuesday that the tea party is actively seeking out minorities to use as "mouthpieces."
"They frantically seek out people of color to become mouthpieces for their particular agenda," the Rev. William Barber said on a conference call.
Barber, the head of the North Carolina NAACP, recently caused controversy by comparing Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the lone black Republican in Congress, to a ventriloquist's dummy at an event in South Carolina last month.
"A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy,” Barber said the day before Martin Luther King Day in Columbia, S.C., according to The State. Barber added that “the extreme right wing down here finds a black guy to be senator and claims he’s the first black senator since Reconstruction, and then he goes to Washington, D.C., and articulates the agenda of the tea party.”
Barber's quote above came in response to a Washington Post question about his criticism of Scott.
Days later, Barber declined to back down from the comment.
Barber said Tuesday that his comment wasn't meant to be racial and that many others serve as mouthpieces for the tea party.
"It amazes me that people are concerned about a metaphor that says, whether you're [South Carolina Gov.] Nikki Haley or whether you're Gov. [Pat] McCrory of North Carolina or [North Carolina Senate candidate and Assembly Speaker] Thom Tillis or Sen. Scott -- it has nothing to do with color," Barber said. "The issue is: Who are you a mouthpiece for when you fight the implementation of the Affordable Care Act?"
Barber added: "We have to challenge that. It has nothing to do with someone's intellect."
Barber noted that former secretary of state Colin Powell, another black Republican, has publicly challenged North Carolina's new GOP-passed voting laws, which minority groups have opposed.
In response last month to Barber's initial comments, Scott emphasized that Barber doesn't know him personally and called the remark "meaningless rhetoric" that didn't warrant a direct response.
Barber is an emerging force in North Carolina politics, serving as a main foil for McCrory and the GOP-controlled legislature -- particularly for its controversial Voter ID bill. Barber has organized a series of "Moral Monday" events to protest the GOP's actions and on Tuesday was promoting his Forward Together Moral Movement march on Saturday in Raleigh.
Scott has also taken a step forward in recent weeks, appearing on the Sunday shows for the first time as a senator over the weekend and speaking to the Republican National Committee last month.
Updated at 3:46 p.m.