Organizers of the event honoring the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on Wednesday reportedly ignored suggestions from Republican officials to invite three prominent black conservatives–Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), T.W. Shannon, the 35-year-old speaker of the Oklahoma House, and former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK).
In addition, according to ABC News, due to miscommunication and a lack of coordination, Republicans felt they were given so-called “unvitations” to the commemoration while Democrats and event organizers felt Republicans turned them down.
Scott, the country’s only black senator, did not speak at the ceremony, and his office said on Wednesday that he was never invited to speak. Organizers of the event told ABC News that they assumed Scott “couldn’t attend” to speak when his office declined an invitation for him to just attend the event. Scott’s office insisted that he was merely invited to attend and “he may have been able to attend if he was formally invited.”
In addition, organizers reportedly invited “both Presidents Bush, former Gov. Jeb Bush, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Sen. John McCain” to speak but sent them invitations late in the process, with nearly all of the Republicans receiving invitations just last week. That prompted a Republican official to tell ABC that the invitations felt like “unvitations,” the Seinfeld-inspired term meaning they were invited with the knowledge that they would reject the invitations.
ABC News reported that the RNC said GOP officials suggested two weeks before the event that Scott, Shannon, and Watts as possible speakers. RNC communications director Sean Spicer told the outlet that “overlooking Tim Scott would be like overlooking the president for the State of the Union speech.”
DNC Vice Chairwoman and former Al Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile said she also assumed Scott was scheduled to speak. Regarding other potential speakers, she “said organizers weren’t going to put a Republican into the program who didn’t have the stature to speak alongside presidents and heroes of the civil-rights movement.”
Rev. Leah Daughtry, the event’s executive producer, regretted the various “scheduling conflicts.”
“We regret that scheduling conflicts precluded the participation of many of our invitees, but we are confident that whether they were in Washington, DC or in their hometowns, everyone joined the celebration of Dr. King’s dream and remains committed to working and fighting for the fulfillment of the ideals Dr. King articulated 50 years ago,” Daughtry said in a statement, according to ABC News.