Florida House Democrats didn’t even give Mark Krikorian a chance to spew his xenophobic propaganda to a full house during a meeting on refugees yesterday — they simply walked out.
Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant group founded by noted white nationalist and eugenics enthusiast John Tanton. Among Tanton’s other creations is the CIS sister group FAIR, which has been called a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for nasty connections to Holocaust deniers, white supremacists, and other undesirables.
So you can imagine that as Krikorian was set give who knows what kind of dubious information about refugees via a Skype call yesterday, House Democrats who had earlier objected to Krikorian’s invitation decided to have absolutely none of it. More from the Tampa Bay Times:
“Mr. Krikorian’s invitation to speak today is an insult to myself and all of my colleagues and the millions of Floridians who we represent,” said state Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale.
“To be blunt, (he) is a racist, and the organization he’s representing is a hate group.”
When Krikorian’s remarks began about halfway through a two-hour Children, Families and Seniors subcommittee meeting on refugees, five Democrats stood up and walked out, joining Democratic leaders in the hallway. After he was finished presenting, they returned to the room.
It’s a rare sign of protest in a Legislature where members tend to defer to one another and act extraordinarily polite in public settings.
“I was disappointed,” subcommittee chair Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, said. “I would have hoped that they would like to hear and listen to a divergence of opinion and ask those tough questions. Challenge the speaker, ask the questions. That’s how you learn.”
Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa said members of the minority party had no choice but to stage a walk-out. She sent a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, late Wednesday demanding Krikorian’s invitation to speak be revoked.
The presentation was not cancelled, and Harrell began the hearing by asking all of its members to listen to diverse ideas and consider them as part of the policy making process.
“The House does not endorse the views of any speaker here, but we are simply allowing a free exchange of ideas,” she said.
But Cruz said listening to Krikorian’s ideas was not a productive part a policy debate. And, she said, Krikorian’s presentation was different from just listening to diverse viewpoints of people who choose to give testimony at a public meeting because he was invited by Harrell to present his views.
Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa said members of the minority party had no choice but to stage a walk-out.
“The problem we have is with the individual who wishes to influence the policy process,” Cruz added, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “We want to be part of a policy discussion, and we will, but we will not sit in the face of darkness.”
Tough luck, Mark. And definitely, more of this from Democrats.
Below, a press conference from the Florida leaders who were a part of the walk-out.