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Danbury Democrat accuses Hayes of ‘veiled racism’

August 2, 2018

DANBURY - A city Democrat who accused Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes of “veiling her own racism with allusions to diversity and fairness” during a debate has sparked condemnation by party and community leaders.

Martha Rhodes, a member of the Danbury Democratic Town Committee, made the comment in a social media post after attending a Monday night debate in Torrington between 5th District front-runner Mary Glassman and Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, who is African-American.

“It is a racist comment - there is no way to walk that back,” said Glenda Armstrong, president of the Greater Danbury NAACP and a member of the Danbury Democratic Town Committee. “She needs to apologize to Jahana and to the community.”

There was no word about whether Rhodes would apologize, said Andrea Gartner, the city’s Democratic Party chair. Rhodes told The News-Times on Thursday that she intended to release a statement.

Gartner said it was not clear that Rhodes understood that her comments crossed the line.

“I don’t think Martha is a racist, but her comments sound racist for sure,” Gartner said. “They are inappropriate, they crossed the line and they are not representative of the Danbury Democratic Party.”

Hayes, who appeared Thursday morning on the MSNBC talk show, “Morning Joe,” told The News-Times that said she had no plans to ask Rhodes for an apology.

“I am trying to get elected with a message that everybody has value, and that is what our Congress should look like,” Hayes said. “I conduct myself the best way I can to be a good person, and I hope that message resonates with everyone.”

Hayes did respond to Rhodes’ post on Facebook with a quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”

Diversity has been an issue for Democrats in the biggest races in Connecticut this year. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said he encouraged Hayes to run, for example, because he believed New England needed a woman of color in Congress.

Rhodes in her Facebook post took issue with Hayes identifying herself as a woman of color.

“I felt excluded by her because I’m white and she repeatedly harped on how government should look like her while veiling her own racism with allusions to diversity and fairness in her final remarks,” Rhodes wrote.

State Rep. David Arconti condemned Rhodes’ remarks, saying she appeared to misunderstand what Hayes was saying.

“When Jahana says ‘Congress should look like us,’ she is talking about working families, teachers, and everyday Americans.” said Arconti, who does volunteer campaign work for Hayes in Danbury. “I am extremely disappointed by these comments that cross the line, and the Democratic committee cannot remain silent on this.”

Gartner said party leaders were yet to decide what action to take with Rhodes.

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