CNN commentator calls Strickland a racist, mayor responds

Memphis mayor responds to 'racist' comment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis mayor Jim Strickland’s campaign is responding after a cable television political commentator called him a “racist” and a “Dixiecrat.”

CNN political commentator Angela Rye made the comments during a campaign appearance for Memphis mayoral candidate Tami Sawyer.

Rye is a friend of Sawyer and has endorsed her campaign.

"You all who have apathetic ones in your families, in your congregations, in your friend circles, in your Links chapters are passively watching a racist govern this city of Memphis," Rye told the crowd. "You're passively watching a Dixiecrat reign in 2019."

WMC Action News 5 caught up with Rye and Sawyer at a campaign canvassing event Saturday.

Both declined to speak to us about the controversy, but Sawyer told supporters why race matters in the campaign.

"Black people are not minorities; they are the majority of this city and they continue to be systemically disenfranchised and oppressed," Sawyer said.

WMC asked Mayor Strickland's campaign about Rye's comments.

Steven Reid, Strickland's campaign consultant, said in a statement, "This kind of hateful and divisive rhetoric doesn't even deserve a response."

It's not the first time Rye has gone after Strickland.

During an MLK50 event in February 2018, she criticized Strickland for what she called a lack of progress on poverty and social justice.

"We can enjoy the progress, we can celebrate the progress but let's not lie to each other about where we are," said Rye, who grew up in Washington state. "You wanted to have a reverse march today, and you couldn't, and you couldn't because you can't substantially honor progress that doesn't exist."

Strickland responded by noting progress the city has made with sanitation worker pensions and child literacy programs.

"She was wrong in many of her facts. She's not from Memphis. She doesn't know what's going on here," said Strickland.

The rhetoric in the Memphis mayoral campaign has heated up in recent weeks.

Last week, Sawyer called former Memphis mayor and mayoral candidate Willie Herenton “a misogynist” after he referred to her as “that young lady” in the race and a "minor distraction

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