At yesterday’s climate hearings, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California looked down at the black man testifying about the impact of climate legislation on business and asked: “Colored boy, what are you doing with this sophisticated report?”

Or at least that’s the way Harry Alford, CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, recounted it in a phone interview with’s B-Cast.  “It was condescending,” he said, “like being in Mississippi in 1945.... She owes America an apology.”  

Who the heck is Harry Alford and what actually happened in the Environment and Public Works Committee?  

Alford’s organization—which does not disclose its membership but claims to have 190 chapters that “reach” 95,000 black-owned businesses—had commissioned a report in May predicting that the climate bill would cost 2.5 million jobs and result in a $350 billion decline in the gross domestic product.  

As Grist’s Kate Sheppard points out, his group has received $350,000 from ExxonMobil since 2003, including $75,000 last year, or about 10 percent of its revenue. The organization’s Web site and tax filings list only Alford and his wife Kay DeBow as officers. Alford has previously said that the Kyoto Protocol was based on “flawed science” and has accused environmentalists of using “scare tactics.”

Yesterday, he also attacked the climate bill for its potential impact on the economy, particularly minority owned businesses. He said these impacts worry him and his members “because the black community suffers mightily when the economy goes south.”  

Boxer, however, apparently had the gall to point out during the hearing that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People approved a resolution this week supporting climate change policy.  

Boxer's reference to the NAACP's stance did not sit well with Alford. “All that’s condescending,” he replied. “It’s racial.... I take offense to that.”  He went on complaining that this had nothing to do with the NAACP, and he didn’t like having to “contend with some other black group.”  

He had his own proposal for dealing with climate change: expanding the use of oil, gas, and coal—and apparently, engaging in racial theatrics.

Watch the whole exchange here.

Image of Harry Alford courtesy U.S. Senate