In a statement to The Washington Post, RNC spokesperson Danielle Alvarez said Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman John Bennett is “lying” about the steps the national party plans to take as part of McDaniel’s recent move to form the first-ever “RNC Pride Coalition.”
“Chairman McDaniel has made it abundantly clear that this does not mean we are advocating for any policy or RNC platform change — Chairman Bennett is lying and it is disgusting that he’d attempt to raise money off these falsehoods,” Alvarez said.
An Oklahoma Republican Party spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Daily Beast reported earlier Tuesday that Bennett sent a lengthy fundraising email in which he said McDaniel “MUST Change Course or RESIGN” if “she cannot or will not stand for who we say we are.”
“The OKGOP will not cooperate with this decision and, as your Chairman, I assure the Oklahoma Republican Party that I will continue to stand up for our Republican Party Values and our principles,” Bennett said in the email, according to the Daily Beast.
He also asserted that religious freedom is “flat-out incompatible with the pillars of the LGBT movement” and solicited donations to “clear the way of those who are either too incompetent or too selfish to actually defend liberty and our Judeo-Christian founding.”
Bennett’s email came after the RNC launched its “RNC Pride Coalition” at a Log Cabin Republicans event earlier this month. The gala, which took place at Mar-a-Lago, highlighted the national party’s efforts to reach out to LGBTQ voters and included guests such as former president Donald Trump, former first lady Melania Trump and former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, according to Fox News Channel.
McDaniel, who was given an award at the event, said that LGBTQ conservatives “don’t just share our vision for a free, secure and prosperous America — they enrich it by adding unique perspectives to our party and recruiting even more diverse candidates and supporters to join our cause,” Fox reported.
Shortly after the Log Cabin Republicans event, McDaniel held a phone call with all 168 Republican National Committee members, a group that includes all state party chairs, including Bennett.
According to a person with knowledge of the call, McDaniel announced the RNC’s new efforts to engage with the LGBTQ community and later followed up with an email asking members to reach out to her if they had any questions or concerns about the initiative, which included the hiring of a new staffer.
“Outreach to the gay community is part of the comprehensive outreach program we have on the strategic initiatives team at the RNC, including for Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Hispanic, Veterans, Youth, Black, and Asian-Pacific Americans,” McDaniel said in the email. “The goal of these outreach efforts is to engage with voters from all backgrounds to bring new voters into our party. The RNC hiring this new staffer does not mean we are advocating for ANY policy or RNC platform change on these issues.”
Bennett did not reach out to McDaniel to voice any concerns at the time, according to the person with knowledge of the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.
The Republican National Committee’s executive panel voted last year to make no changes to its 2016 party platform, meaning that the language describing the party’s position on a host of issues — including same-sex marriage — will remain in place through 2024.
On same-sex marriage, the platform states: “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.”
During his four years in the White House, Trump took a number of steps to roll back protections for LGBTQ individuals, including banning transgender people from openly serving in the military. But he also nearly doubled his support among LGBTQ voters, to 27 percent in 2020 from 14 percent in 2016, exit polls show.
Christian conservatives remain an influential force in the Republican base, however, and recent years have seen a spike in state-level GOP efforts to restrict transgender rights.
As Oklahoma GOP chairman, Bennett has frequently taken aim at the national party.
“It has become clear that the Republican In Name Only (RINO) establishment will stop at nothing to obstruct and to keep everything the same,” he wrote in a fundraising email last month, pledging that “100% OF DONATIONS GO TO THE STATE PARTY, NOT THE RNC!”
Bennett also recently made headlines for comparing coronavirus vaccine mandates to the Holocaust, prompting condemnation from Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell (R), and Sens. James M. Inhofe (R) and James Lankford (R), among others.
He has also made a number of Islamophobic statements. As a state lawmaker in 2014, Bennett said that Islam is “not even a religion,” but rather “a political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.”
Jaclyn Peiser contributed to this report.