In a candidate forum with the South Carolina Senate race contenders, Senator Lindsey Graham has said he did not believe there was systemic racism in his state, insisting young black people would be safe, “as long as they're conservative.”
Graham made the comment during what was initially going to be another head-to-head debate on Friday with Democratic contender, Jaime Harrison.
The format for the televised event was changed after Graham had refused a request by Harrison to take a coronavirus test beforehand. Instead, both candidates were questioned for 30 minutes each on a range of issues, laying out their pitches for the state's voters.
He made the remark in the context of political careers, and said Harrison would lose because he is a Democrat, not because he is Black.
“Do I believe our cops are systemically racist? No. Do I believe South Carolina is a racist state? No. Let me tell you why. To young people out there, young people of color, young immigrants, this is a great state, but one thing I can say without any doubt, you can be an African American and go to the Senate but you just have to share our values.”
He went on to say: “If you’re a young, African American or an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative, not liberal”.
Harrison is playing this clip on loop:
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.”
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.
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