Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that people of color “can go anywhere in this state,” as long as they are “conservative, not liberal.”
The incumbent senator’s comment came during his segment of a televised, 30-minute public forum Friday night after the original event — a debate between Democrat challenger Jaime Harrison and Graham — was scrapped after he refused to take a coronavirus test.
During the forum, one of the moderators asked Graham to discuss the civil unrest brought on by the police killing of George Floyd, and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The senator said that he did not believe police forces are inherently racist, adding that he did not believe the Palmetto State was inherently racist.
“Let me tell you why,” began the senator. “The one thing I can say without any doubt, you can be an African American and go to the Senate, you just have to share the values of our state.”
Graham pointed to fellow Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — the only Black Republican senator — and the state’s former Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who is of Indian descent, as examples of people of color who have been successful because of their “values.”
“I care about everybody, if you’re a young African American or an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this country,” Graham said. “You just need to be conservative, not liberal.”
Graham’s remarks sparked swift backlash from Democrats and critics on Twitter, including from Harrison himself.
“Lindsey Graham finally said the quiet part out loud: he only cares about South Carolinians who belong to his political party,” Harrison wrote.
“This isn’t about political parties. It’s not about left vs. right. This is about right vs. wrong.”
Lindsey Graham finally said the quiet part out loud: he only cares about South Carolinians who belong to his political party.
This isn’t about political parties. It’s not about left vs. right. This is about right vs. wrong. pic.twitter.com/qIDsiNornL
— Jaime Harrison (@harrisonjaime) October 10, 2020
Jimmy Williams, a former adviser to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and a South Carolina political consultant, rebuked Graham’s remarks on Twitter as “racism on live tv in 2020.”
“White people don’t get to tell black people how to think or vote anymore,” he tweeted. “Your 19th century plantation mentality isn’t welcome in South Carolina.”
Hello @lindseygraham white people don’t get to tell black people how to think or vote anymore. Your 19th century plantation mentality isn’t welcome in South Carolina. Those days are over. Racism on live tv in 2020. #sc2020 #scpol #scsenate pic.twitter.com/3dTEdyi9sZ
— jimmy williams (@Jimmyspolitics) October 10, 2020
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), mocked the senator, asking if his remarks were a result of a fever or steroids. The congressman appears to be referring to a fever, a common symptom of COVID-19, and steroids, a family of drugs used to tamp down severe symptoms of the disease.
Is that the fever talking, or the steroids? https://t.co/Y9t3fAMvV1
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) October 10, 2020