May 3—A photo op for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Dow turned into a cringeworthy moment before a crowd of thousands Friday night when the director of the Gathering of Nations powwow asked the state representative to pull a campaign commercial on critical race theory, contending her politics were hurtful.
Dow’s appearance on stage got off to a cheerful start. “First, I want to say you ride a bad horse,” Derek Matthews, who also is the founder of the Gathering of Nations, told Dow, apparently in reference to another campaign ad of Dow on horseback. Dow laughed at his remark. But the introduction quickly turned serious, according to a video of the encounter posted on Twitter.
“What I want to do is I want you to take a look out at all these people here. See these faces, our drums, you heard those songs — these things are very meaningful,” Matthews continued. “What I want to ask you, I want to speak to you is, you have a commercial running right now. You talk about race theory. I want you to understand you hurt these people. You hurt us all.”
Dow wrote in a text message Monday she was invited to the event.”Considering this was the first Gathering of Nations since [the coronavirus pandemic] I completely understood and respected the request that I be non-political,” she wrote.
“I would have preferred the focus remain on the Indian Nation and their exquisite culture, apparently the owner of the event had a different idea,” she added. “They asked me to be non-political but chose not to themselves. It’s a shame he decided to take the attention away from the wonderful event to share his personal opinion.”
Efforts to reach Matthews were unsuccessful as the Gathering of Nations did not respond to a request sent to an email set up for media inquiries.
On Friday night, Matthews told Dow critical race theory was an unfamiliar term. The academic framework has turned into a lightning rod in politics in New Mexico and across the country. “We’re asking you to don’t say that. Take that out of your commercial,” Matthews told Dow as people in the crowd started to cheer.
Dow’s opposition to critical race theory is a major part of her campaign. In addition to airing a statewide television ad on the subject, she introduced a bill during the 30-day legislative session to prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, but her proposal went nowhere.
As she stood on the stage with Matthews, Dow appeared to keep a smile on her face as he continued his criticism.
“You’re hearing from the people,” Matthews said in response to the audience’s applause. “You’re hearing from the people that you want to support you, and we didn’t know anything about [critical race theory] until politics brought it to us. We’re not about politics. I am asking you over and over and over, change those commercials. Take that out. Don’t say that anymore.”
The crowd continued to applaud and cheer as Dow looked on. “If you will give us [that] commitment here, you’ll have 5,000 new friends,” Matthews told Dow.
Dow kept her remarks brief.
“Thank you, Indian Nation,” Dow, who has said her family is Cherokee, said. “I’m very honored to be here today. Thank you.”
“You heard it,” Matthews said after Dow handed him the microphone back. “We’re not political. We are real.” The 1 1/2 -minute video, which has been retweeted dozens of times and received more than 8,200 views, stops at that point.
“At the Gathering of Nations New Mexico GOP gubernatorial candidate @dowfornm thought she was gonna get cheered but instead she got schooled,” wrote Anthony Medrano, who posted the video. State Sen. Harold Pope Jr., D-Albuquerque, is among the Twitter users who shared the video with followers.
Dow “and other Republicans think it is ok to attack the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] community and have the nerve to show to an event thinking they will be celebrated,” tweeted Pope, who is Black. “The hate and divisiveness from these folks has to stop. Unfortunately she and others still haven’t learned.”
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.