A day after describing a planned speech from a controversial anti-Islam professor as “much ado about nothing”, Pinellas GOP chairman Michael Guju announced that Monday’s “educational forum” has been postponed.
In its June newsletter, the PCREC promoted a 45-minute speech called “The Islamic Threat to America,” by Dr. Jonathan Matusitz, an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida. The speech was supposed to take place roughly an hour before the organization’s monthly meeting.
But on Thursday, this blog reported that Matusitz’s appearance was drawing public and private criticism from local Republicans.
Chris Latvala, a GOP stalwart who has worked on dozens of local campaigns, was the first to speak out, taking to Facebook to express his disappointment in the party.
“I am deeply disappointed in your decision to have a speaker Monday night talk about the “Islamic Threat to America,” wrote Latvala in an email to Guju. “Our job as a party should be to encourage every voter whether they are Christian (which I am), Atheist, Buddhist, Scientologist, Muslim, Agnostic, or whoever, to vote Republican.”
Latvala’s email set off a chain of events which, according to several sources in the party, reached the upper echelons of the Republican Party of Florida.
By Friday afternoon, Guju was under fire in the Tampa Bay Times for inviting Matusitz.
“I looked up the guy, I vetted him, and he has a point of view that perhaps someone may not appreciate. I understand that. That’s education,” Guju told the Times‘ Anna Phillips.
What Guju did not appear to realize was that it wasn’t just Matusitz’s ideas which were the problem, it was also the perception that inviting a controversial, apolitical speaker was a distraction from the PCREC’s core mission: to elect Republicans.