Over the past weeks, television news superstar Bill O'Reilly and other respected journalists have focused their disgruntled attention on an "all-white" private party held in Georgia's small and predominantly rural Taylor County.
White high-school students there chose to hold a privately funded alternative prom party, separate from the school district's integrated event. The target of most of the outrage over this pitiful event has been Georgia's first Republican governor in 130 years, Sonny Perdue. O'Reilly and friends argue that Perdue should have immediately condemned this obviously offensive party.
For the record, one must note that Perdue had an incredibly rocky start to this term in office. He has weathered a divisive battle that could have ultimately restored the Confederate battle emblem to the state flag, and he has also struggled with state lawmakers on how to balance a budget in tough economic times.
Our InsiderAdvantage poll shows Gov. Perdue with a 53 percent approval rating among Georgians, a relatively decent number considering his shaky start.
I have no quibble with O'Reilly's stance on the prom issue. And it was likely a mistake for Perdue to decline an early invitation to appear on "The O'Reilly Factor," generally considered the most popular cable news/talk program in the nation.
But as one who's appeared on O'Reilly's show, and who also personally knows Georgia's new governor, I feel it fair to share more than just polling numbers on the controversy.
For those Southerners who have taken offense to O'Reilly's comments, let me say he's been careful to note that he doesn't believe the actions taken in Taylor County reflect the opinion of most Georgians. Viewers should remember that O'Reilly's goal is to avoid the typical "talking head" boredom of evening cable programs. His job is to stir the pot.
It's also fair to assume that even Gov. Perdue was probably a little surprised at his upset victory last November. He's new on the job, and it takes time for new leaders to decide when or if it is their place to comment on issues, even those as offensive as the all-white prom in Taylor County. To be blunt, most Georgians don't even know where Taylor County is, nor do they pay any attention to its small town happenings.
To date, Perdue hasn't appeared on O'Reilly's show. If he does, the governor should highlight his experiences as a foster parent to African-American children. And while he should defend the right for individuals to assemble privately, he should also condemn the effect this "private party" could have on those not invited to the celebration.