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Media at Convention Needs V.I. Political Reality Lesson

Sept. 2, 2004 – The V.I. Republican Party delegation to the Republican National Convention has gotten national and international attention – most of it misinformed.
British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent Orin Gordon reported Wednesday that Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal, delegation chairwoman, had strayed from her script, when she offered the delegation's nine votes for President George W. Bush, by making a plea for the V.I. delegate to Congress to have a vote on the floor. But that is not what Belardo asked for.
What she asked for was "the right to vote for the president of the United States."
Holland Redfield, Convention delegate and Bush-appointed whip, was quick to respond to the BBC charge, saying there was no deviation from the script." Discussing a script is totally inappropriate on the part of the BBC," Redfield told Radio One. "Belardo crafted that script with the help" of the other delegates – and never deviated from it.
Redfield told the Source Thursday morning that he didn't know where Gordon had gotten his information from, and confirmed that Belardo never said anything about the delegate to Congress having a vote.
Whether or not the Virgin Islands delegate to Congress has the right to vote on the floor is entirely up to the Congress to decide, Redfield said. "It's a rules matter."
On the print side, reporter Betsy Rothstein wrote in The Hill, the newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress, according to its Web site: "While other groups of delegates sang and bonded in the sheer delight of convention fever, [Lawrence] Boschulte's eight co-delegates from the Virgin Islands had disappeared to the RNC lounge to sip cocktails."
Rothstein, whose article had at least one clear mistake – she called RNC St. Thomas delegate George Blackhall "Jack" – seemed to imply in her story that Virgin Islanders did have the right to vote in the presidential elections.
She lumped the Virgin Islands and American Samoa in with states such as Idaho, Hawaii and Vermont, which she said were either not big Republican strongholds, or also had very small delegations, writing, "The Virgin Islands' delegation is one of several that come from small states and territories that are sure losers for Bush and are placed accordingly in those nooks and crannies of Madison Square Garden seating where no one has to pay them any attention."
Rothstein again seemed to believe that Virgin Islanders can vote in presidential elections, when she quoted Boschulte as saying, apparently talking about why the delegation was there, "I guess it's where you go to feel more important than you really are," and then wrote that Boschulte knows the Virgin Islands won't vote for President Bush because he is chairman of the Board of Elections in St. Thomas.
Belardo was clear in an interview with Radio One that once the work to prepare for the Convention had been done in the Virgin Islands, the delegation was in New York to have fun.
"When we get to the convention it's to whoo, rah, rah," Belardo said. "This is what you do at a convention. Everyone is having a ball." She said the delegates were also getting out and about meeting people and making themselves known.
She was clearly right about that, considering the amount of media coverage – right or wrong – this tiny delegation has received.
To read the entire Rothstein story, click here.
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