A black Boston minister is defending Mitt Romney's commitment to the African-American community, while another called him a "man of intregrity" after the former Bay State governor was booed during a speech before the NAACP -- jeers that a third Boston minority leader decried as "not appropriate."
But the Rev. Jeff Brown's effusive praise in an open letter about Romney -- whom he worked with to combat inner-city violence when Romney was governor of Massachusetts -- was not echoed by other black leaders reached by the Herald yesterday.
"I'm not a Republican and I appreciate that he has reached across the aisle to work with Democrats," Brown told the Herald.
"Governor Romney distinguished himself in his willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion with inner-city black clergy," Brown said in the letter.
Brown, a co-founder of Boston's Ten-Point Coalition, also took a backhanded swipe at President Obama's 2008 campaign message of hope.
"It is not about rhetoric, it is about results. It is not about ideology, it is about results," Brown wrote. "Words and symbolism is important, but the black church cannot eat rhetoric and symbols."
Brown told the Herald his letter should not be seen as an endorsement, despite the plaudits. He declined to say who he would vote for, adding he doesn't plan to endorse a candidate.
Some in the audience at the NAACP convention in Houston booed Romney yesterday when he said he would be better for black families than the nation's first African-American president, though others politely clapped when he finished his address.
"I am going to eliminate every non-essential, expensive program that I can find -- and that includes Obamacare," Romney said to jeers. "If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him. You take a look."
Joyce Ferriabough, a Democratic political consultant and Mattapan native, said it was inappropriate to boo Romney.
"I don't think it's great decorum to boo anyone," Ferriabough said, though she suggested some doing so might be hurt by an Obamacare repeal. But she disagreed strongly with Brown regarding Romney's gubernatorial term.
"Romney used the ministers as a backdrop to say how much he supported affirmative action and the issues connected to my community, and then he stonewalled everyone," Ferriabough said.
On Romney as presidential candidate, she said, "We have to pin him down first. His positions change with the wind. The one thing you can say about Obama is he stands for what he believes in."
Bishop Gideon Thompson of the Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan called Romney "an honest man of integrity. I know he's going to do all he can to remedy what he believes are the faults of the current president." But Thompson called Romney's claim that he will do more to help blacks "wishful thinking."
Thompson and Brown said they understood those booing Romney.
"I don't think it was disrespectful, it was a reaction from people who strongly support the first black president of the United States," Brown said.
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