NAACP Nixes Paige From Speaker's List

The Ohio state NAACP (search) has withdrawn a convention speaking invitation to U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige (search) at the request of the group's national office.

Paige, who was invited three weeks ago to discuss education reforms, was cut from the weekend program at the request of the national office, Ohio NAACP President Sybil Edwards-McNabb said Thursday.

The state meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People opened Friday in Cleveland.

Edwards-McNabb said national NAACP leaders told her there was an "imbalance" in her slate of convention speakers. She said she had invited President Bush and the Democratic nominee for president, Sen. John Kerry.

Bush agreed to send Paige, she said. The Rev. Al Sharpton (search), who spoke at Friday's opening session, represented the Kerry campaign, said Brendon Cull, spokesman for the campaign in Ohio.

The NAACP national president, Kweisi Mfume, said Friday night that he was unaware of who in the national office might have sent a directive to withdraw the Paige invitation.

Mfume said the NAACP doesn't withdraw invitations based on partisan issues. He said any past differences with the administration should not be interpreted by national office staff members as a justification for withdrawing a speaking invitation.

Paige's office said the invitation was withdrawn Tuesday. "They said, 'Thanks, but no thanks,"' according to Susan Aspey, Paige's press secretary, who said Paige was disappointed.

Edwards-McNabb could not be reached for further comment. A message was left at the convention hotel Friday night.