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."
Lindsey Graham, facing a Black challenger: "If you're a young African American...you can go anywhere in this state,… https://t.co/1hSzdvJ25R— Steve Morris (@Steve Morris)1602287672.0
@stevemorris__ I'm sorry WHAT?— matt gehring (@matt gehring)1602287944.0
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."
So...um.. BLACK PEOPLE! In #SouthCarolina ! GREAT NEWS! @LindseyGrahamSC says you can go anywhere in #SC BUT only i… https://t.co/SThiVXb0P5— Debra Messing✍🏻 (@Debra Messing✍🏻)1602360061.0
And a sitting senator just said that only conservative people of color are safe to go anywhere in his state. https://t.co/9Ekolx1M8N— Wall Of Vets Command Center (@Wall Of Vets Command Center)1602466386.0
It's amazing how brazen some politicians are now with their racist comments. The fact that Lindsey Graham can say s… https://t.co/PpZ15i3L3q— NewsandGuts (@NewsandGuts)1602352048.0
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."
Lindsey Graham said he did not believe there was systemic racism in his state, insisting young black people would b… https://t.co/JjkIjc4SK3— Cliff W (@Cliff W)1602351286.0
@stevemorris__ https://t.co/EjXJXZkZZL— He’s Lying (@He’s Lying)1602293080.0
He is racist. Call him what he is. https://t.co/TvawEYs6Q1— Ethical Society of Police - ESOP (@Ethical Society of Police - ESOP)1602424715.0
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.
#LindseyGraham: "Black people can go anywhere in this state as long as they think what we tell them to think." The… https://t.co/4wwkdteVOd— Leia🇨🇴 (@Leia🇨🇴)1602344126.0
I don't think this got the attention it deserves. A white man telling poc how to vote, or how to think is racist. https://t.co/Z2zrjPDmWu— Claudia 🇭🇳🇲🇽 (bougie gangsta) 💅🏽 (@Claudia 🇭🇳🇲🇽 (bougie gangsta) 💅🏽)1602500059.0
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.
Lindsey Graham in 2020 telling Black people where they can go and what they can do in South Carolina: “If you're a… https://t.co/rGEZz2UM5G— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@Rex Chapman🏇🏼)1602295139.0
Hello @lindseygraham white people don’t get to tell black people how to think or vote anymore. Your 19th century pl… https://t.co/anszRzpjtX— jimmy williams (@jimmy williams)1602294549.0
Senator Lindsey Graham: ‘I care about everybody, if you are a young African-American, an immigrant, you can go an… https://t.co/pzSYAuDJki— RynheartTheReluctant (@RynheartTheReluctant)1602331716.0
Jaime Harrison's supporters quickly jumped on Graham's statement as yet another reason for Black voters to support their candidate in November.
If there were any black people old enough to vote in South Carolina who weren’t planning to vote, they’re going to… https://t.co/HIu0uXswmc— Kenny BooYah! (@Kenny BooYah!)1602297698.0
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.