Earlier this year, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign released what they called “The Douglass Plan” to address racial inequality in the country. The plan was initially praised by various Black community leaders, but now at least three are distancing themselves from the campaign after a letter seemed to imply that they’d endorsed Buttigieg for president.
A letter published by the campaign reads, “we are over 400 South Carolinians, including business owners, pastors, community leaders, and students. Together, we endorse his Douglass Plan for Black America, the most comprehensive roadmap for tackling systemic racism offered by a 2020 presidential candidate.”
But Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Devine, State Representative Ivory Thigpen, and chair of the state party’s Black Caucus Johnnie Cordero, all say that their support for the plan was never intended as an endorsement for Buttigieg as a candidate.
“I think the way they put it out there wasn’t clear, that it was an endorsement of the plan, and that may have been intentionally vague,” Devine told The Intercept. “I do think they probably put it out there thinking people wouldn’t read the fine print or wouldn’t look at the details or even contact the people and say, ‘Hey, you’re endorsing Mayor Pete?’”
Thigpen, who supports Bernie Sanders for president, called the letter “not an accurate representation of where I stand.”
Cordero said he never even supported the plan, and simply provided feedback on it months ago. He said that the campaign never fully answered his questions about who actually wrote it, and so he declined to offer an endorsement. His name has since been removed from the letter.
For their part, the Buttigieg campaign says that they emailed everyone whose name they planned to put on the letter, giving them a deadline of just a few hours to opt out of the endorsement.
That email said that the letter was intended to represent “400 Black South Carolinians,” but by checking self-reported demographic data, The Intercept estimated that around half of the signatories are white. Some of the names also appear multiple times.
Ryan Grim, a reporter for The Intercept, noted that under a headline about “the empowerment of Black America,” the Douglass Plan features a stock photo of Black people that was actually taken in Kenya.