Below is an email sent the Hayride which follows the strange story of how State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) abruptly backed out of a forum at Southern University on racial issues.
For clarity, here is the email in full:
Rep. John Bel Edwards will not be attending the forum at Southern University hosted by The Rouge Collection, in partnership with the Southern University SGA and Department of Student Affairs.
This release is to inform the media of the emails that The Rouge Collection has received.
The Rouge Collection is a black owned media outlet in Baton Rouge. John Bel Edwards was endorsed by The Rouge Collection in October long before this event was ever planned. So these emails are not sent in an attempt to diminish him in anyway. Rather to defend The Rouge Collection against any possible attacks by the Edwards campaign or its representatives. These conversations would never have been made public or referenced if the integrity of The Rouge Collection and its owners we not in question.
We have been diligently working to have Rep. John Bel Edwards attend a forum at Southern University discussing issues that affect the black community. Sen. David Vitter accepted the invitation last week, via Julie Dyer his scheduler.
Since then Gary Chambers, publisher of The Rouge Collection has been in talks with several local elected officials about the importance of John Bel Edwards attending the event, as well as Linda Day the campaign manager for John Bel Edwards. On Friday November 6th Gary Chambers spoke with Linda Day. In the phone call with Mrs. Day, Edwards’ campaign manager, Day said, “I can’t understand why you guys are doing this. David Vitter shouldn’t even be allowed to step foot on the campus of Southern. They are just going to try and use this against us. We have been to Southern for the Homecoming Parade, the football game. I mean we have supported Southern.”
Mrs. Day was then informed that this forum was originated by The Rouge Collection to get black voters involved in the process and not counted out in the runoff elections. Mr. Chambers told Mrs. Day, “I don’t believe that theyoung black voters are engaged because the method may not have been the right one. I believe this event has the potential to get out the black vote. We at The Rouge Collection average over 50,000 unique visitors a month, and think that releasing the footage from this event afterwards would greatly mobilize young black voters like myself. I’m only 30, so I understand that my group has been left out.”
On Saturday November 7th Johhny Anderson reached out to Gary Chambers to discuss Edwards coming to the forum. In the phone conversation with Mr. Anderson, he stated, “We don’t want John Bel to get attacked again for saying something at Southern to black voters that causes white voters to second guess him. I think we can win this thing, but we’ve got to be smart about it. I know how the Vitter camp works, they are already hitting him on racial issues trying to divide people. We want to do it, I just don’t know if we can make it happen. He’s got some things on his schedule we are trying to see if we can move.”
Mr. Chambers told Mr. Anderson, “We will film the forum to ensure that anything John Bel says is on record fully and we will make that available to you all. We are not trying to set anyone up for failure, we simply believe that getting young black voters to the table happens from a real conversation not just photo op events.”
Mr. Anderson informed Mr. Chambers he would be in touch, and thanked him for his time.
This morning the campaign of John Bel Edwards sent an official response to the invitation which you will see below. In the official email response to The Rouge Collection you will see that no mention of the phone conversations is sent. However you will see that Mr. Chambers in his response referenced his conversation with Johnny Anderson about attending the forum.
The main objective of The Rouge Collection with this forum has been simply to get the candidates to come discuss issues as they relate to the black community. Not to side with any candidate. Rep. Pat Smith has since been on social media accusing Mr. Chambers of falsely commenting on what has happened. She has repeatedly commented under post about the issue.
Many other candidates have moved their schedule around to attend this forum including Billy Nungesser and Kip Holden candidates for Lt. Governor, as well as Jeff Landry candidate for Attorney General.
Rep. Smith told Mr. Chambers in a phone call on Saturday Nov. 7th, “You are not going to get those students at Southern to vote. They just don’t care. We have brought John Bel to Southern already, he doesn’t need to come back.”
“The purpose of The Rouge Collection partnering with Southern University was to get students on campus and the black community to the table for this election. It has turned into more than that, because of some wanting black media not to have a voice. I don’t believe that the Edwards campaign would have sent any other media outlet a cease and desist email, for referencing conversations about an event. Every politician in the state has some where to be to honor our veterans for veterans day and we understand that, yet all of these folks have moved their schedules around. It’s a shame that those in the Edwards camp are afraid to discuss black issues with David Vitter because they will offend white voters. We make up 33% of the state. I will not let Pat Smith whom I respect greatly or anyone else speak against our company negatively for telling the truth. We aren’t here to play politics. We want our community informed and John Bel Edwards is a democrat, this should have been an easy crowd for him, but they are simply afraid of losing white supporters. I understand that politically, but as a black man, I simply cannot excuse it. Especially when in the runoffs he should be looking for opportunities to get in the same room with David Vitter and talk policy. Now it’s Edwards avoiding showing up and Vitter coming, how is that even logical. I don’t think voters are as dumb as the politics being played here – said Chambers.
Instead of having Edwards attend, another email from the Edwards campaign requested that a surrogate attend in his place.
This email from the Rouge Collection was sent out to all members of the Louisiana media, though the Hayride is the first to publish the email in full.