Chattanooga Sister Cities’ President Slams Senator Blackburn

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CHATANNOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – CHATTANOOGA’S SISTER CITY PROGRAM IS BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT AFTER IT’S PRESIDENT, KAREN CLAYPOOL, PUBLISHED AN OPEN LETTER THIS WEEK CONDEMNING REMARKS MADE BY SENATOR MARSHA BLACKBURN – WHO SUGGESTED THE DECADES-OLD CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM WOULD BECOME A POLITICAL WEAPON FOR CHINA.

AND IN THE WAKE OF NEWS THAT CALIFORNIA REPRESENTATIVE ERIC SWALWELL HAD BEEN A TARGET AS PART OF A CHINESE PLOT TO INFLUENCE AMERICAN POLITICS, MORE QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN RAISED ABOUT WHETHER THE PROGRAM HAS NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERNS.

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IN HER OPEN LETTER, CLAYPOOL DERIDED BLACKBURN’S REMARKS AS XENOPHOBIC, ENCOURAGING THE SENATOR TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM HERSELF.

WHEN ASKED ABOUT SENATOR BLACKBURN’S STATEMENTS FURTHER, CLAYPOOL TOLD NEWS 12 THAT THEY WERE SIMPLY UNTRUE.

“I THINK THEY ARE UNFOUNDED. WE ARE NOT A GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY. WE DO RECEIVE GUESTS SOMETIMES FROM BOO-SHEE’S GOVERNMENT, FROM THEIR CITY GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE IN EDUCATION, BUSINESS LEADERS, BUT IT’S NOT A GOVERNMENTAL EXCHANGE,” SAYS CLAYPOOL.

CITY COUNCILMAN ERSKINE OGLESBY SAYS THAT WHILE THE SITUATION WITH REPRESENTATIVE SWALWELL IS UNFORTUNATE, IT DOESN’T SUBSTANTIATE SENATOR BLACKBURN’S CLAIMS REGARDING SISTER CITIES AS A WAY FOR CHINA TO PROMOTE ANY SORT OF ESPIONAGE.

“YOU ALWAYS HAVE ENTITIES THAT ARE – DON’T HAVE THE BEST INTENTION. THAT’S WHY I BELIEVE OUR INTELLIGENCE SERVICE IS GOOD AT PICKING UP ON THOSE THINGS. AND TO JUST PUT IT, ASSOCIATE IT DIRECTLY WITH SISTER CITIES I BELIEVE IT’S NOT CREDIBLE. YOU KNOW, IT CAN HAPPEN WITH ANY COUNTRY AT ANY TIME FOR ANY REASON,” SAYS COUNCILMAN OGLESBY.

OGLESBY PRAISED THE SISTER CITIES PROGRAM AS PROVIDING MUCH CULTURUAL BENEFIT TO CHATTANOOGA, SAYING THAT THERE IS NO DIRECT INVOLVEMENT WITH THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT.