Clay Aiken and John Rich Feud on Twitter Over Racism, Republican Convention

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Which is more racist? A) Creating an environment where African-Americans don’t feel welcome, or B) pointing out when someone does A)?

That’s the lofty philosophical debate at the heart of the Twitter feud that erupted Tuesday between music stars Clay Aiken and John Rich. And by “lofty philosophical debate,” we mean petty name-calling and insults.

The occasion? The Republican National Convention, airing on TV for several nights this week, and featuring crowd shots of delegates and politicians on the arena floor where, as Aiken pointed out, there seem to be few black faces. But the way Aiken brought up this point made Rich livid.

What did Aiken and Rich say to each other in their war of words?

Aiken began by writing the following:

Rich, whose group Big & Rich includes self-proclaimed black Republican Cowboy Troy, shot back with three tweets in response and brought Troy into the conversation:



Aiken replied, in turn,

Aiken and Rich were once pals, or at least close enough for Aiken to solicit Rich’s advice on competing on Celebrity Apprentice. (Rich won his season; the next, Aiken was runner-up to Arsenio Hall.) Both stars have long been outspoken about their politics.

The “#negrospotting” hashtag that so offended Rich may have begun with Jared Rice, who is a city councilman in New Rochelle, N.Y. and who is also a member of his local NAACP chapter. He, too, was watching the convention crowds:

Whether you side with Aiken or Rich — and there were plenty of bitter fans on both sides chiming in on Twitter — it does seem true that there were few black faces on the convention floor. Watching the primetime network coverage last night, a viewer might have glimpsed several shots of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the audience, but very few other African-Americans among the rank-and-file delegates.

Aiken wasn’t the only media figure who found the convention hall less than hospitable to black people. A black camerawoman for CNN found herself pelted with peanuts by a pair of conventiongoers who said to her, “This is how we feed animals.” (Convention organizers expelled two attendees for their behavior in this incident.)

And Conan aired a bit in which staff writer Deon Cole, who is black, got kicked out of the hall by Secret Service — though Cole may have been pulling viewers’ legs a little here.