By WESLEY LOWERY
A bad meal has spoiled one of the most anticipated events at this week’s NABJ convention.
Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele backed out of his scheduled appearance at NABJ’s 35th annual convention in San Diego because of food poisoning.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Drew Berry, NABJ’s interim executive director. Berry added that Steele did not inform organizers until about 11 a.m. Friday.
Steele, the first black chairman of the Republican Party, had agreed to have a conversation with NABJ Secretary Roland Martin in a session titled “Life, Liberty and Legacy.”
NABJ received a statement from the RNC that said: “While traveling out West the Chairman came down with a bad case of food poisoning. He is disappointed to miss the opportunity to take part in this valuable dialogue and looks forward to engaging with NABJ in the very near future.”
In response, NABJ issued a statement, saying that NABJ was aware of a fundraiser that Chairman Steele and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart were scheduled to attend next month in California. On Thursday, NABJ hosted former USDA Regional Rural Director Shirley Sherrod who grabbed national headlines after Breitbart posted a video clip on BigGovernment.com suggesting Sherrod was racially biased.
Breitbart later posted the full video of Sherrod’s comments, but that did not happen until after she was forced to resign by USDA leaders and President Barack Obama’s administration.
“(The cancellation) is understandable if it truly is food poisoning,” Berry said. “But I’d be very disappointed if I learned it was for some other reason.”
Asked whether there was any relationship between Steele’s cancellation and the fundraiser, Special Assistant to the Chairman, Joey Smith said: “We don’t comment on our finance events and never have.”