Trent Lott Retreats From Belafonte Awards Dinner

July 7, 2008 - 8:20 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) announced Thursday he would not be attending an Oct. 24 award dinner honoring entertainer/activist Harry Belafonte, following the singer's comparison of Secretary of State Colin Powell to a house "slave."

"Sen. Lott will not be attending the dinner," Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for Lott, told CNSNews.com. Belafonte is scheduled to receive the Africare Bishop John T. Walker Humanitarian Service Award at the dinner. Africare is a non-profit relief group.

Lott's decision not to attend pleased those who were calling for him to pull out of the dinner. Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a conservative African American civil rights group, told CNSNews.com, "I think the senator has done a wise thing and I hope that his staff now forces Africare to remove his name as National Honorary Patron."

Lott is listed as a National Honorary Patron for the dinner along with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.)

Bonjean did not elaborate on whether Lott would remove his name as a patron. "[The decision not to attend] speaks for itself," Bonjean said.

Princeton Lyman, a member of the board of directors for Africare, said he was unfamiliar with Belafonte's remarks about Powell. When informed of Belafonte's comments, Lyman told CNSNews.com, "Oh golly, I had been away and I guess I missed it. Oh my goodness."

"I am really out of touch. Do you know where I could find the text?" he asked.

Lott's participation in the Belafonte event drew criticism because of Belafonte's reference to Powell during a Tuesday interview with KFMB San Diego radio host Ted Leitner.

"Colin Powell's committed to come into the house of the master," Belafonte told Leitner. "When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture.

"In the days of slavery, there were those slaves who lived on the plantation and were those slaves that lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master ... exactly the way the master intended you to serve him," Belafonte added.

Powell called Belafonte's remarks "unfortunate."

"If Harry had wanted to attack my politics, that was fine," Powell reportedly said. "But to use a slave reference ... is unfortunate and is a throwback to another time and another place that I wish Harry had thought twice about using."

Innis is angry that Belafonte would denigrate the life and career of Powell, saying the singer represents "selfish ideological interests ... that do a disservice to the people they pretend to speak for."

"For years, Belafonte and the civil rights movement have been pushing for Black Americans to get the opportunity to serve their country in a variety of ways and now you have a distinguished general and now secretary of state that is blazing his own path. It's a disgrace what Belafonte is saying," Innis said.

E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.

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