In South Carolina, polls have shown Senator Lindsey Graham and his challenger, Democrat Jaime Harrison, are neck-and-neck at 48%.
At the delicate moment, with his reelection on the line, Graham chose to go on television and say:
"If you're a young African American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative not liberal."
Graham shared this comment as part of a public forum which was previously scheduled as a debate. The format of the event changed when Harrison, who is Black, took a test for the virus, per organizer rules, but Graham refused.
When asked about police reform and the national anti-racism protests which have been a mainstay in U.S. cities since the killing of George Floyd, Graham said:
"And here are the facts. Do I believe our cops are systemically racist? No. Do I believe South Carolina is a racist state? No."
Graham went on to say Black people like his fellow Senator, Republican Tim Scott, can only "go to the Senate" if they "share the values of our state." Graham seems to interpret these "values" as being conservative.
Graham insisted Harrison would lose his Senate race "not because of race but because he's aligned himself with the most liberal people in the country."
Though Graham seems to be under the impression that his state is overwhelmingly Republican, many point to the polls, some of which show Harrison in the lead, as evidence there are many Democrats in the state.
On Twitter, Graham was widely criticized for the comments, which many interpreted as racist.
Graham has been the subject of near-universal controversy over the past week as many prominent Republicans tested positive for the virus while Graham refuses to release his medical results.
There are some online who believe Graham refused to be tested because a positive test would likely result in an extended absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which could scuttle the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Jaime Harrison's supporters quickly jumped on Graham's statement as yet another reason for Black voters to support their candidate in November.
With less than a month until election day, Harrison and Graham are making their final pitches to South Carolina voters.
These words from the Senator aren't likely to help his case.