CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Democrats are disputing widely circulated right-wing attacks that they refused “gift baskets” to Democratic National Convention delegates because the gifts came from Charlotte area churches with “pro-life” or “anti-abortion” views.
“We received dozens of requests,” said Josh Field, the spokesman for the local DNC host committee. “This wasn’t something out of the ordinary; with 6,000 delegates we couldn’t accommodate all the requests.”
Field says the Host Committee events director and press secretary held a conference call with representatives of Charlotte 714, a group which claimed to represent 100 churches "and in the group's conversations with the Host Committee, no political or religious reasons were mentioned. It was logistics. We couldn’t accommodate their requests."
Fox Radio commentator Todd Starnes repeated the assertion of church leaders that the DNC refused the gifts on ideological grounds. The report was picked up by Rev. Austin Miles on a blog which maintains the churches “offered hospitality, not knowing how much the Dems hate God.”
Miles goes on to allege that “Even the Charlotte Mayor’s office jumped in to tell the churches not to participate, saying that their views on women’s rights are contrary to the platform.”
A spokesman for the Office of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Al Killeffer, responded:
“The Mayor's office did not receive any communication on the matter of gift baskets from Charlotte 714. The group's request to distribute gift baskets to delegates was handled by the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee. The Host Committee received a number of offers to extend hospitality to delegates during the convention, and groups wishing to provide delegate gift baskets or bags, including Charlotte 714, were informed their requests could not be accommodated due to logistical challenges. They were thanked for their generosity and interest in participating.”
In a series of email replies to questions from WCNC-TV, David Benham, a principle organizer of the Charlotte 714 movement, said he received a text message from Charlotte Mayor Pro-Tem Patrick Cannon to say the DNC denied his request to send gift baskets “because my (personal) views on women were contrary to the platform.”
“That’s totally been misconstrued,” said Cannon, who said he was trying to help the churches get in touch with the host committee. “I don’t know enough about their position on women’s rights. That didn’t stem from me because I wouldn’t have known it.”
Under Charlotte’s “weak mayor” form of government, Cannon is elected at large as a member of Charlotte City Council and does not represent the Mayor’s office.
“The Mayor’s office didn’t get involved,” said Cannon.
The blog account says that “over 9,000 people had come together to pray for the convention.” Charlotte 714 organizers say they got the 9,000 figure from a manager at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater where the prayer service was held, but the figure represents a total number for the day’s services which began at 8 a.m. in the parking lots outside the venue and continued when the gates opened at 2 p.m. for a program that stretched off-and-on from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
So not all 9,000 worshippers were at the venue at one time and photos and video of the services show far fewer people.
The blog account says that “over 9,000 people had come together to pray for the convention.” But those attendance numbers appear to be inflated. Charlotte 714 used the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater for a prayer service the Sunday before the convention.
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater contains approximately 8,600 reserved seats and a review of video of the event shows the seating was at most one-third full.
The email account recycles the criticism that “When a gathering of 200 Muslims showed up to pray for the convention, the Democrats welcomed them with open arms and the liberal media gave extensive national coverage.”
This claim has been refuted in several independent accounts, including FactCheck.Org.
WCNC covered the Muslim prayer service held in Frazier Park and the Charlotte 714 prayer service.
WCNC received an email requesting verification of the Fox News Radio account from a woman in Kentucky. The Charlotte Observer received a similar request in a phone call from Minnesota.
The website Snopes.com, which confirms or debunks urban legends, has listed this account as “undetermined."