HOUSTON - NAACP officials described Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's morning address to the nation's most prestigious civil rights group as demeaning and insulting.
A three-quarters full auditorium greeted Romney with lukewarm applause, but the atmosphere quickly grew increasingly tense as Romney made the case that President Obama's economic policies have not helped the black community. He cited the jump in unemployment among African Americans from 13.6 percent to 14.4 percent in June.
"If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact, then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone," Romney told the civil rights group's annual gathering. "Instead, it's worse for African Americans in almost every way."
Clayola Brown, the member of the NAACP's National Board of Directors who invited Romney to speak, said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee should not have used unemployment numbers to try to turn the crowd against Obama.
"It was insensitive and quite demeaning as a matter of fact," Brown told The Washington Examiner after Romney exited the stage. "Certainly we are aware of what the numbers are and the impact is in our communities. It's the dialogue used that we find insulting."
Brown said the point of inviting Romney to the convention wasn't to give him a chance to win over African American voters who overwhelmingly backed Obama in 2008 and are expected to vote for him again this fall. Instead, Romney was invited to "show respect to the organization," she said.
Another board member, Amos Brown, of San Francisco, called Romney's address, "an insult to the NAACP," including his references to the importance of family.
"For him to come here and lecture us about the family - he doesn't need to be talking to Negros about that," Brown said. "Who tore up the family?"
Romney tried to appeal to the crowd by promoting himself as a candidate for everyone but one who could particularly "make things better" in the black community by helping them find jobs.
The audience laughed. And booed.
"I think he tried to be sincere but I don't think he's for the poor, or the middle class," Ethel Taylor, of Toledo, Ohio, told The Examiner. "I don't think he could care less."
Romney advisor Tara Hall said she heard plenty of applause for Romney from the crowd and believes his message was well received.
"Yes, there is disagreement, there is going to be disagreement," Hall said. "He actually received more applause than boos. There was much more agreement overall. At the end of the day its a message that has to be told."