Two Tennessee lawmakers were scheduled to speak this weekend before a Southern secessionist organization with ties to a hate group, the Tennessean reported Thursday.
The Southern National Congress’ website listed state Rep. Judd Matheny (R) and state Sen. Frank Nicely (R) as guests expected to discuss proposals for ways in which “Delegates can take back to their respective State legislatures” at the session, which runs Friday through Sunday.
Nicely brushed off criticism tying the Southern National Congress to a neo-Confederate hate group, telling the Tennessean that he planned to speak at the event because the group’s members want to hear his ideas, not the other way around. The Southern National Congress has ties to the League of the South, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Matheny has since tried to get his name off the announcement because he will be out of state during the session, according to Rev. David O. Jones, chairman of the Southern National Congress and Tennessee’s chapter of the League of the South.
“I’ve got more important things to do than take a name off a former press release. We don’t have him listed in any agenda or anything like that,” Jones told the Tennessean. “I’ve met with Mr. Matheny a couple of times in his office, spent an hour over breakfast visiting with him, and I don’t know why now he’s considered us unsuitable to talk with.”
Matheny’s office did not respond to the Tennessean’s request for comment.
Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), who announced a primary challenge to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), recently defended his own speaking appearance at a neo-Confederate conference.