An event aimed at helping Republicans reach out to black voters devolved into arguments over race on Friday at an influential gathering of conservative activists, according to media reports.
The discussion at the Conservative Political Action Conference broke into a shouting match after a member of the audience accompanied by another man wearing the Confederate flag on his T-shirt said that white Southern males were being "systematically disenfranchised," according to the website Talking Points Memo.
Shouting ensued among audience members when the man suggested that former slave and 19th century writer Frederick Douglass was treated well by his owner.
"A young man who wasn't a Tea Party Patriot, made some racially insensitive comments, he said: 'Blacks should be happy that the slave master gave them shelter, clothing, and food,'" said K. Carl Smith, an African-American conservative who led the discussion and describes himself as a "Frederick Douglass Republican."
The man accused Republicans of "reaching out to voters ... at the expense of young white Southern males," according to a video of part of the exchange that was posted on YouTube.
The blow-up occurred away from the main ballroom where thousands of attendees came to hear Republican speakers like former presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday. But it was an embarrassing moment for the party as it tries to reshape itself after Romney's election defeat by President Barack Obama.
The event was called "Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You're Not One?" and was organized by the Tea Party Patriots, a group dedicated mostly to promoting small government and fiscal conservative issues.
A spokeswoman for CPAC said she was not aware what happened.
Smith said the encounter ended amicably.
"At the conclusion of the breakout session, I further explained to him the Frederick Douglass Republican Message which he embraced, bought a book, and we left as friends," he said in a statement.