What counts as “dinner”? That can be a charged question, depending on who you’re having it with.
On Friday night, the twitter feed for ProEnglish, a group that advocates only teaching classes and conducting all legislative business in English, indicated that their executive director had dined with presidential candidate Rick Santorum while at CPAC.
That director, Bob Vandervoort, has in recent days been dubbed a “white nationalist” by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, who note that he was once involved with a group called the Chicagoland Friends of the American Renaissance. That group describes itself on its website as “racial-realist,” and advertizes a book on racial genealogy that says, “orientals fall at one end of the spectrum, blacks at the other end, and whites in between.” Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer was among the liberal critics who raised an eyebrow over Vandervoort’s attendance at CPAC.
TPM caught up with Vandervoort at a pub outside CPAC on Friday night. He said he had indeed eaten with Rick Santorum, and he pushed back at the “white nationalist” charge.
“I’ve never been affiliated with any group that promotes hate or violence,” he said.
Vandervoort called the idea that he was a white nationalist a “distortion” that come from “left-wing groups that are against our agenda.”
As for the dinner with Santorum, the candidate’s camp played down the event, telling Buzzfeed that Vandervoort was “one attendee in a much larger group of 85 people” and that the luncheon guest list was put together by fundraiser Richard Viguere.
Vandervoort said that he thinks that conservative candidates “understand that [promoting the use of English-only education and legislation] is an important issue which they need to get behind.” Rep. Steve King appeared at a CPAC panel hosted by ProEnglish on Thursday.