GOP lawmaker denies fried chicken was protest, claims coincidence

DENVER — State Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono, denied Thursday that fried chicken she ate during a Wednesday meeting was a form of protest and said she was “simply having lunch.”

Saine was criticized for her lunch choice because it came two weeks after Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, attempted to explain high poverty rates among African Americans by talking about chicken and barbecue.

Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Rep. Rhonda Fields, an African American lawmaker, and all but the most extreme Colorado Republicans distanced themselves from Marble.

So on Wednesday, when the task force met for the first time since the Aug. 21 hearing, a box of Popeye’s fried chicken placed conspicuously on Saine’s desk inside the senate committee room drew the attention of several lawmakers and observers in the room.

One witness heard Saine, who represents District 63 in Weld and Morgan counties, telling Marble that she brought the chicken in “silent protest” of the uproar caused by Marble’s comments last month.

Thursday, Saine told the Longmont Times-Call that she chose to eat chicken for her lunch because “I do like chicken a lot” and that the Popeyes box was visible because she was sitting on the end of a long table.

However, Mike Maurer of the Legislative Council told FOX31′s Eli Stokols that some of the lawmakers ordered box lunches from Udi’s including Saine, who had an egg salad sandwich and fruit for lunch.

Saine also denied the witness account about the chicken being a silent protest telling the Times-Call, “Nobody could have possibly overheard me saying” that.

FOX31′s Justin Joseph asked Saine about her lunch choice Wednesday immediately after the committee hearing.

“I’m having chicken for dinner,” Saine replied, laughing. “Would you like a [press conference] at my house?”

That was the only statement Saine made during the three minutes Joseph and a photojournalist followed her around the Capitol building, asking multiple times about the chicken (the raw video of that exchange is posted below).

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call called Saine’s actions “insensitive and hurtful.”

In a statement he said, “Saine’s actions on Wednesday do not represent the Colorado Republican party” and “she must apologize for them.”

Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio issued a statement saying he was “deeply disturbed” by Saine’s actions.

“Saine’s ‘silent protest’ appears to have been a premeditated act whose sole purpose was to reignite an unproductive and racist discussion initiated by her Republican colleague, Sen. Marble,” Palacio wrote.

“Moreover, if Rep. Saine’s explanation for her actions are revealed to be untrue, for the good of her constituents and Colorado’s legislature, she should submit her resignation immediately.