The choice of keynote speaker at this month's upcoming Oakland County business luncheon has some people hopping mad.
The controversial speaker is James Simpson. The signup page for the meeting simply says of Simpson, "Investigative journalist James Simpson, an expert on immigration and refugee resettlement, is our keynote speaker."
Screen capture from Oakland County 2016 Business Roundtable Meeting's eventbrite page.
It's a remarkably brief entry for somebody whose conclusions have inspired a great deal of controversy.
In other words, yeah, he's an "investigative journalist" and "immigration expert" — in the same way that guy screaming and waving his wang outside the ballpark is into "community engagement."
One article published by the SPLC said "Simpson travels the country providing training sessions for anti-Muslim activists in communities dealing with an influx of refugees." He spoke last year at anti-Muslim extremist Frank Gaffney's “National Security Action Summit,” and the speech is, well ... kinda creepy. He doesn't seem to think that people on the left are folks who just happen to disagree with him; he lumps them in with the "enemies of this country." Yikes!
We might not have heard of this had we not been contacted by former state rep and current Sugar Law staffer Rashida Tlaib, who also urged social networking users to "Please tweet at Fifth Third Bank @FifthThird and ask why they are supporting a business luncheon in Oakland County with James Simpson, an anti-immigrant, un-American hateful person, as the keynote speaker. Shame on Fifth Third Bank for sponsoring it & L Brooks Patterson for inviting him." She also tweeted on Fifth Third Bank's wall.
When contacted, Tlaib offered correspondence that led with L. Brooks Patterson inviting the public to the event, and thanking Fifth Third Bank for sponsoring the event.
And while the correspondence Tlaib furnished doesn't come out and say it, can't you sense the hand of L. Brooks Patterson guiding this? The old joker probably thinks it's a real hoot to have a guy like Simpson give a rousing speech about Muslims and liberals trying to take over America.
Fifth Third Bank, maybe not so much. When we contacted Fifth Third Bank yesterday, their communications officer seemed taken completely aback. We're guessing that the bank guessed it was on the hook for promoting a bunch of business lunches that would be utterly noncontroversial, and had no idea the Thursday grip-and-grin at the Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac at Centerpoint was going to turn into Muslim-baiting presentation by an Islamophobe extremist.
This morning, we heard from Jack Riley, senior vice president marketing director for Fifth Third Bank for the eastern Michigan region, who told us, “In a nutshell, we withdrew our sponsorship from the Oakland County Roundtable when we learned who the speaker was.”
Riley said the bank had sponsored the roundtable for more than six years, but that the luncheon had "typically featured business leaders that in some way were contributing to the overall community of Oakland County," adding that "it's unusual that they'd have a politically motivated speaker."
"Other states have attempted similar stunts and failed in the courts," Elmir says, noting that Patterson "has moved to pushing hate propaganda among the business community. ... He seems to relish in sowing division and betraying the American ideal of equality. Attempts to close Oakland County’s doors to Syrian refugees run counter to our laws, our values and our conscience."
As for the "extremist blogger" and his credentials, Elmir practically bursts into laughter: "Not only is calling James Simpson a journalist a stretch, but giving him the title of 'immigration and refugee expert' is laughable. This is a man who peddles propaganda and bigotry. Let’s call it what it is. Our elected officials should be able to decipher fact from fiction. But then again, L. Brooks Patterson never misses an opportunity to showcase his intolerance. He has been engaged in stunts like this for political gain for generations."