Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) would have agreed to speak at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech Wednesday had he been asked to do so, his office confirmed to TheBlaze.
Sen. Tim Scott speaks to supporters during an event where South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley announced her candidacy for a second term at the Bi-Lo Center Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, in Greenville, S.C. (AP)
But the sole communication that the only black United States senator received was a mass emailed "blind" form letter apparently sent to all members of Congress on Aug. 8, Scott spokesman Greg Blair told TheBlaze Friday.
Scott declined the invitation to attend because of a previous commitment, but Blair said the senator "would have rearranged his schedule" if he had been approached to speak from the start, even if the invite came Aug. 8, almost three weeks before the event.
Rev. Leah D. Daughtry of the House of the Lord Church in the District served as executive producer of the commemoration and told The Washington Post, “We attempted very vigorously to have someone from the GOP participate and unfortunately they were unable to find someone who was able to participate.”
CQ Roll Call reported Thursday that "much of the speaking program was created based on those who were able to confirm availability to attend the event, and thus were able to speak at the event." The implication was that Scott in effect forfeited a chance to speak because he told event organizers he wasn't available to attend.
This raises the question: Were speakers Wednesday including President Barack Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.), Oprah Winfrey and Jamie Foxx first asked if they'd be available that day, and then asked to speak? Or were they asked to speak from the start?
A representative for Daughtry and other officials involved in the planning for the event did not respond to specific inquiries from TheBlaze. Daughtry's spokeswoman provided only a general statement that touched the invites but gave no details.
Does It Matter If You're Invited to Speak...or Attend Only?
The Washington Post reported extensively on the fact that no GOP elected officials were on stage during Wednesday's MLK event, but did not consistently specify which officials were invited to attend only and which officials were invited to speak.
The following top Republicans were reportedly invited specifically to speak (source in hyperlinks):
President George W. Bush, his brother former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and their father President George H.W. Bush were all invited to attend (the two former presidents declined for health reasons). It's unclear, however, whether any member of the all-Republican family was specifically invited to speak at the MLK event.
Daughtry's spokeswoman would not say whether the Bushes were invited to speak, providing only a general statement with no specifics. A King Center official, Steve Klein, told TheBlaze he believed both former Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush were invited to speak, but he could not confirm it.
Whether GOP officials were asked to merely attend or to speak doesn't seem to matter to some. New York Magazine noted Matt Drudge's tweet that GOP officials were kept from the stage:
This response followed, which blasted the no-shows and made no distinction between an invitation to attend and to speak:
So, does it indeed make a difference if an official invitation to an event such as the 50th anniversary specifies attendance only...or a request to speak?
How Much Did Timing Play into Declined Invitations?
According to The Washington Post, some GOP congressional leaders said they received formal invitations only in recent weeks, which made it more difficult to make room in their schedules.
Cantor received an invitation about two weeks ago, the Post reported—too late to change scheduled appearances Wednesday in North Dakota and Ohio, aides said.
Daughtry told the Post that invitations to top leaders of both parties were delivered “on a rolling basis probably four or five weeks ago.”
But at what point in that four-to-five week period were GOP officials invited? When did Presidents Clinton and Carter (and for that matter, Oprah) receive speaking invitations? When did the Bushes receive their invitation?
Again, TheBlaze put that question to Daughtry's spokeswoman as well as other officials related to the event but received no answers.
According to the Post, the only senator to speak was Angus King (Maine), an independent, who aides said was invited to speak two weeks ago by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who also skipped the Washington event but attended a commemoration event in Nevada.
Incidentally, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) attended a march commemoration at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco after participating in another event on the Mall on Saturday, according to aides, the Post adds.
Sen. Scott's Non-Invite to Speak Minimized, GOP Blamed and Blasted
NBC's Chuck Todd blamed the GOP for Scott's absence: "But why didn't Boehner and Cantor say... 'By the way, we want you to invite Tim Scott,' and I don't thing the King family says no."
The overall GOP absence was excoriated by civil rights activist Julian Bond, who said that organizers “asked a long list of Republicans to come, and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’
“That they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way,” Bond said in the widely publicized MSNBC interview.
“We had a very concerted effort, because this is not a political moment," Daughtry told the Post "This was about us coming together as a community, so we wanted to be sure that we had all political representations."
How Sen. Scott Spent the MLK 50th Anniversary
On Wednesday evening, Scott did speak, CQ Roll Call notes, but at a special service honoring the MLK anniversary a church in North Charleston, S.C., where his cousin is a pastor.
“Humbling to speak about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at services in North Charleston tonight,” Scott tweeted, including a link to an Instagram photo of himself at the event:
Roll Call noted that Scott submitted an op-ed to the South Carolina newspaper The State on how “50 years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the determination and courage shown by a generation of black leaders have provided me and countless others with one incredibly important thing: opportunity.”