Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Powell’s chief of staff when the general was secretary of state during the first George W. Bush term, told reporters that he respected Sununu “as a Republican, as a member of my party,” but did not “have any respect for the integrity of the position that [Sununu] seemed to codify.”
When asked by MSNBC’s Ed Schultz what, if anything, the remark said about the attitudes of the Republican Party, Wilkerson replied:
“My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people — not all of them, but most of them — who are still basing their positions on race.”
He went on, adding: “Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that’s despicable.”
As The Huffington Post reports, Wilkerson also said that “to say that Colin Powell would endorse President Obama because of his skin color is like saying Mother Theresa worked for profit.”
The news comes a few days after one of Mitt Romney’s top aides John Sununu suggested he did not believe General Powell switched parties and endorsed President Obama because he likes his policies.
“You have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or that he’s got a slightly different reason for President Obama,” Sununu said at the time.
He added: “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”
As Politico reports, soon after the CNN interview, the Romney top aid issued a statement appearing to reverse the comment.
“Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president’s policies. Piers Morgan’s question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don’t think he should,” Sununu said.
By the way, retired Gen. Powell, made no mention of Obama’s race in announcing the endorsement on Thursday.
Appearing on “CBS This Morning,” Powell praised President Obama for his reversing the country’s abrupt economic downturn and approved most of the president’s policies on issues ranging from national security to climate change to health care reform.
“I think, generally, we’ve come out of the [economic] dive and we’re starting to gain altitude,” said Powell, who served as George W. Bush’s secretary of state. “It doesn’t mean all our problems are solved….But I see that we are starting to rise up.”
President Obama, in his turn, dismissed Sununu’s comments on Friday, telling reporters: “Any suggestion that Gen. Powell would make such a profound statement in such an important election based on anything but what he thought was what’s going to be best for America doesn’t make much sense.”