In a carnivalesque spectacle that stumbled somewhere between public relations event and shouting match, leaders of College Republicans United (CRU) apologized for racist and anti-semitic Facebook chats revealed by Phoenix New Times.
A few dozen students protesters showed up for the event outside Old Main on Arizona State University's Tempe campus. Chants calling for the group to disband and taunts of "Nazi" made it clear that protesters doubted the sincerity of the conservative group’s apology.
Protesters also shouted at the Reverend Jarrett Maupin, the polarizing activist whose call for a protest on Wednesday contributed to CRU organizing its public address. Maupin stood between CRU members and their detractors throughout the event, giving off the appearance that he was running interference for the group.
New Times on Friday published leaked chats showing leaders of CRU, including Kevin Decuyper and Richard Thomas, making racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic statements. In addition to the chats, Thomas posed for a photo in which he appears to be mocking vehicular murder of Heather Heyer during the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
ASU launched an investigation into the chats to decide whether any of the statements violate the student code of conduct
"I am here today because I would like to deeply and sincerely apologize for my acts and my inflammatory comments," Decuyper said.
Though he apologized for his posts, Decuyper denied that he holds any racist views.
"We do not stand for any of these dangerous views that you accuse us of today,” said Decuyper, chairman of Republicans United, the statewide umbrella organization for CRU. “I wish I could define myself by my actions, by my words, and by my show of character."
He also addressed a statement he made on Facebook in which he said he used a profile photo with the black conservative Candace Owens to hide his more "extreme views" from the "right-wing community."
At the time of his Facebook post regarding his profile picture with Owens, Decuyper was responding to a man who asked him, "What's with the nigger in your profile picture?"
Addressing that on Tuesday, Decuyper said, "I've never used the phrase nigger in my life."
Decuyper added that what he considers extremist views differ from what students and New Times might think.
Asked for examples of his more extremist views, Decuyper said he supports building a wall on the southern border and ending abortion. When a reporter suggested that those are mainstream Republican views, Decuyper disagreed.
He did not address whether a Facebook post calling the Nazi military the most "heroic and efficient" to have existed could represent one of his more "extreme" views.
CRU founder Thomas also addressed the crowd, saying he "screwed up" when he wrote the offensive Facebook chats.
"It was a dumb moment. It was in the heat of the moment," Thomas said. "It was the decorum of the conversation."
Thomas condemned white supremacy and racism before later denying to New Times he holds racist or white supremacist views. He said every post he's written that has caused outrage was taken out of context. Thomas also said antifa members have published his address.
Protesters shouted over Decuyper and Thomas through the entire event, which lasted for about an hour. A constant refrain in response to their apologies was that they are only sorry because they got caught.
Just as much, if not more, anger was trained at Maupin. Protesters accused him of being a fraud who was working with CRU students to help them rehabilitate their image. Maupin denied the charge.
"The point here today isn't to accept the apology. It's to assess the apology," Maupin said. After CRU leaders made their statements, Maupin said, "I think it's an empty apology."
One woman wearing a Black Panthers T-shirt, who declined to give her name because she said she feared death threats, was particularly incensed at Maupin, criticizing him for his relationship with former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his practice of charging families of police shooting victims large sums for his public relations work.
"All he does is take money from people," she said.
Maupin previously came under criticism for his involvement in a public relations event at Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles where State Representative. David Stringer declined to apologize for making racist statements. Maupin later condemned Stringer after more racist comments of his surfaced.
Watch the public relations event here:
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