There were calls for West Virginia state Del. Jill Upson to resign over her role in an appalling radio ad that argued Democrats would be “lynching black folk again” if they won in the midterm elections.
Now, Upson will head West Virginia’s minority affairs office.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice appointed Upson as the executive director of the state’s Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, where she’ll award grants, review policies that affect minority populations and make recommendations to the governor and the legislature, according to the Register-Herald.
In ordinary circumstances, a GOP governor naming to that post an African-American Republican who’d just left her position as a state legislator after losing in the midterms wouldn’t be noteworthy. But Upson isn’t ordinary. She chaired the super PAC, Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, that ran an Arkansas radio spot so offensive that it drew national attention.
The ad used the sexual assault allegations lodged against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a peg to flame all Democratic candidates.
“If the Democrats can do that to a white Justice of the Supreme Court … what will happen to our husbands, our fathers or our sons when a white girl lies on them?” a woman asks in the ad.
“Girl, white Democrats will be lynching black folk again,” another woman replies. “We can’t afford to let white Democrats take us back to the bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences and lynchings when a white girl screams rape.”
At the time, the Democratic Party of Arkansas condemned the ad as “overtly racist” because it “demeans the pain and experience of African Americans” over “centuries of segregation and racial violence.”
The president of the West Virginia chapter of the NAACP, Owens Brown, likened the spot to voter suppression, saying it was an attempt to create a divide between white Democrats and black voters in Arkansas. Though Upson reportedly said she didn’t support the “coarse language” in the ad, Brown called her response “meek condemnation” and demanded that she step down from her position in the House of Delegates.
“The lynching of black people in America was a reality and still is a reality not by rope but by gun,” Brown said in a press release. “Many black people were lynched for exercising their rights to vote or to keep them from voting. Today we call it voter suppression.”
After this article was first published, Upson told HuffPost that she was no longer affiliated with the super PAC and that she has vehemently opposed the radio ad since it ran. She forwarded along a press release from October, in which she said she had nothing to do with the ad’s creation.
“I immediately denounced the ad and demanded it be pulled,” Upson said.
The state and national NAACP did not respond to HuffPost’s calls for comment. But Gabrielle Chapman, director of the West Virginia coalition Call to Action for Racial Equality, was in “shock” Tuesday over Upson’s appointment, according to the Register-Herald.
“That’s nuts,” Chapman said. “That is absolutely absurd. She is not for minorities.”
The governor said that Upson was right for the job because she has “provided outstanding service to the citizens of West Virginia to ensure absolute equality and civil rights for all.”
The story has been updated with comment from Upson.
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