Rhode Island delegates take heat for trashing state at RNC

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Some people brag about their home states.

But Rhode Island's delegation to the Republican National Convention is taking some heat back home for using its spotlight to trash the state's reputation on national TV.

State GOP Chairman Brandon Bell delivered Rhode Island's votes in the state-by-state roll call that led to Donald Trump's nomination Tuesday night.

It's a time when delegates traditionally use their few minutes with the microphone to share quirky trivia or tout amenities or local products. Many of Rhode Island's 19 delegates wore sailor hats. One appeared to be smoking a cigar.

Bell praised Rhode Island's coastal beauty and its history of religious tolerance but said it constantly ranks at the bottom nationally, calling attention to one recent CNBC ranking declaring it the worst state for business.

He blamed a "corrupt Democrat political machine" he says has run the state for 80 years.

The speech quickly earned laughs outside the state, with people on social media joking about Rhode Island's reputation for self-loathing or calling it a refreshing change from boring paeans to Minnesota lakes or Oklahoma agriculture. A local conservative talk-show host defended the criticism of Democratic leadership as appropriate for a political event.

But some business leaders and others in the Democrat-leaning state weren't so happy.

"What an embarrassment! It was disgraceful," entrepreneur Rajiv Kumar, who is president and chief medical officer at Virgin Pulse and who lives in Providence, wrote on Twitter.

The head of a local tourism marketing company said that every state has good and bad attributes but that Bell wasted an "unbelievable platform to talk about the virtues of Rhode Island."

"To call out and degrade our state like that I think was a missed opportunity to say what's really good about this state," said Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport. "Calling it the home of Hasbro and Mr. Potato Head would have been fun. It could have been whimsical or different."