The president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce accused Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday of racially condescending to him during an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing.
Republican members of the committee had sought the testimony of Harry C. Alford, an opponent of a climate change bill that narrowly passed in the House.
Alford said in his opening statement that he spoke on behalf of his organization when he argued that the bill would have devastating consequences for small and minority-owned businesses.
But he took offense when Boxer countered his statement by quoting an NAACP resolution that approved the climate change bill and putting it on the record.
Clearly agitated, Alford asked why Boxer would cite that group's resolution.
"Sir, they passed it. They passed it," Boxer responded. "Now, also, if that isn't interesting to you, we'll quote John Grant, who is the CEO of 100 Black Men of Atlanta."
Alford protested that Boxer was condescending to him.
"I'm the National Black Chamber of Commerce and you're trying to put up some other black group to pit against me," he said angrily.
Boxer claimed that if Grant was there, he would be proud she was quoting him.
"He should have been invited," Alford exclaimed. "All that's condescending and I don't like it. It's racial. I don't like it. I take offense to it. As an African-American and a veteran of this country, I take offense to that."
When Boxer asked if he was offended that she would quote Grant, Alford said, "You're quoting some other black man. Why don't you quote some other Asian. You are being racial here. And I think you're getting to a path here that's going to explode."
Boxer defended herself by saying she believes statements by the NAACP and 100 Black Men, who acknowledge the threat of global warming, are relevant.
"There is definitely differing opinions in the black community, just as there are in my community," she said, adding that she was trying to show the diversity of support behind the climate change bill.
But that didn't satisfy Alford.
"We are referring to the experts regardless of their color," he said. "And for someone to tell me, an African-American, college-educated veteran of the United States Army that I must contend with some other black group and put aside everything else in there. This has nothing to do with the NAACP and really has nothing to do with the National Black Chamber of Commerce. We're talking energy and that road the chair went down, I think, is god-awful."
Boxer's office later declined to comment about the exchange.