Bush to Address Urban League

Leaders of the NAACP (search), through their "hostile rhetoric," have shown no interest in working with President Bush, the White House said Thursday. The president skipped speaking to the group, but will address the annual meeting of another civil rights organization next week.

Bush will speak at the Urban League (search) on July 23 during its convention in Detroit. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry also has been invited to speak to the league.

"The president welcomes differing views — constructive dialogue about differences. Ways we can work together on shared priorities is an important part of our national discourse. But the current (NAACP) leadership, through their repeated partisan comments and hostile rhetoric, have shown that they are not interested in a constructive dialogue," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Bush declined to speak to the NAACP during its convention in Philadelphia this week, drawing criticism from NAACP leaders. Although he spoke to the group when he was running for president, Bush has not attended its convention as president, the first since the 1930s to decline to speak to the group.

The White House cited a scheduling conflict when it turned down the NAACP invitation. Bush later said his relationship with NAACP leaders was "nonexistent" and told reporters, "You've heard the rhetoric and the names they've called me."

On Monday, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume (search) described Bush's black supporters as "ventriloquists' dummies" and said the president's decision not to speak at the convention was an insult. The same day, NAACP chairman Julian Bond urged members to oust Bush and condemned the administration's policies on education, the economy and the war in Iraq.

Kerry was scheduled to speak to the NAACP on Thursday, the final day of its convention.

Bush spoke to an Urban League conference in July 2003, telling the mostly black audience that his economic policies were a path to "greater opportunity and hope" for black Americans. When he addressed the group's national convention in Washington in August 2001 he asked members to support his education initiatives.