The National Organization for Women on Wednesday condemned its Los Angeles chapter president, Tammy Bruce, and demanded a public apology for comments she made during the O.J. Simpson trial that NOW officials regarded as racially insensitive and inflammatory.
"It pains me that these unfortunate and unwise comments have tainted NOW's reputation and our relationships with people of color and our social justice allies," NOW's national president, Patricia Ireland, said at a news conference in Washington.
Bruce attributed the attack from her own national office to internal politicking and said she has nothing to apologize for.
"I will not be silenced," she said. "I will not abandon domestic violence victims for internal NOW politics. I would say Patricia Ireland owes an apology to the families of domestic violence victims who will die while NOW focuses on petty name-calling."
An outspoken commentator throughout the divisive trial, Bruce pressed to keep victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman in the spotlight, and later condemned the jury's acquittal verdict.
Among the comments that drew the national group's ire was her remark on the ABC "Nightline" television program that "what we need to teach our children is . . . not about racism, but is about violence against women." Bruce also said her domestic violence message provided "a needed break from all that talk of racism."
Bruce also told journalists in October she had a message for Simpson: "You are not welcome here, you are not welcome in this country, you are not welcome on our airwaves, you are not welcome in our culture."
In another instance, Bruce was quoted in an Associated Press report as saying she did not want to discuss the O.J. Simpson case on a TV program because she did not want "to argue with a bunch of black women." Bruce later said she had been misquoted on the matter.
Ireland said the comments caused grave concerns among many black women in the organization and raised the false impression that NOW does not regard racism as a problem.
As a sign of how the comments were received, Ireland said leading national civil rights leaders contacted her to complain about Bruce's outspoken views, while white supremacist groups praised the comments in calls to NOW leaders in one rural state.
Ireland said that if Bruce did not apologize, the board could move to oust her. But Bruce, the Los Angeles chapter president since 1990 and a onetime national board member, said she will fight any such efforts.
"I adore this organization and have devoted my life to it," Bruce said. "There is nothing to retract. I have made it clear that this issue affects all women, including women of color. Of course, this issue is colorblind."