Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday questioned the actions Jacob Blake took before the 29-year-old Black man was shot several times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis., asking why Blake “didn’t yield.”
Graham spoke at a press conference announcing the endorsement of the South Carolina Fraternal Order of Police, according to Politico, when he was asked about the latest shooting of a Black man by police, which has sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
“I don't know what happened there. Let's find out. It's dangerous being a cop,” Graham said. “I don't know why the gentleman didn't yield when he was asked to yield. I don't know what the facts are.”
Graham’s comments came at a press conference to announce the endorsement of the South Carolina Fraternal Order of Police, an organization that supports law enforcement officers. A reporter asked Graham whether the latest shooting of a Black man by police suggests that, after several months of nationwide demonstrations against police violence and systemic racism, protesters' grievances are still not being heard.
“I don't know what happened there. Let's find out. It's dangerous being a cop,” Graham said. “I don't know why the gentleman didn't yield when he was asked to yield. I don't know what the facts are.”Blake, 29, was shot by a Kenosha police officer claiming to respond to a domestic dispute. In the cell phone video that captured the officer shooting him, Blake leans into a vehicle before being shot. It is unclear from the audio whether police officers asked him to yield. Blake's three children were in the car.
Graham faces a tight re-election bid in South Carolina, a state which is more than 30% Black. A series of polls show him in a dead heat with Democratic rival Jamie Harrison, who was the first Black official to chair the state's Democratic Party.
Citing in part the nationwide protests over racial injustice, which might provide “further motivation for turning out African-American voters in South Carolina, the Cook Political Report recently shifted its election forecast slightly more in Harrison's favor, to “lean Republican.”
Should Harrison emerge victorious, Cook pointed out, “South Carolina — the first state to secede from the Union in 1860 — would become the first state in history to have two Black senators serving at the same time.” The state is also currently represented by Sen. Tim Scott, who is a Republican.
Graham hit Harrison on the support he has received from MoveOn.org which calls for defunding the police and reinvesting in social programs. Graham called on the Democratic challenger to give back contributions from MoveOn.org. According to the Federal Elections Commission, MoveOn.org’s political action committee gave Harrison $2,000 in May of this year. As of the end of June, Harrison had raised $28.9 million toward his Senate bid, while Graham had raised $30.9 million.
Harrison denied being in favor of defunding the police.
“After 25 years in Washington, Lindsey Graham has changed, and he’ll do anything to play political games,” Harrison said in a statement released by his campaign. “It’s clear police across this country must do better, and that’s why leaders at every level — local, state, and federal — need to hear these protesters, and take action. I do not support defunding the police, but I do support police reform, and that starts with training, changing the way force is used, and funding community safety, not military-style tactics.”
“You have hit the perfect storm is what's happened. Jaime is an ideal kind of Democratic candidate for this moment,” Furman University politics professor Danielle Vinson said. “He understands people from South Carolina, understands working class South Carolina and he's a more moderate Democrat by virtue of being a South Carolina Democrat.”
Camden Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen said the national “giant Democratic wave” in 2020 will help Harrison.
“Clearly, he's capitalized on national trends but you only do that if you are the right person who's willing to take the risk at the right time and he was,” said Sheheen, who has twice run statewide as a Democratic nominee for governor. “When he decided to run, he had no chance in winning and that takes a lot of courage.”
Let’s keep up the momentum and flip South Carolina Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Harrison, Biden and their fellow South Carolina Democrats campaigns: