Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has come under fire after saying that African Americans and immigrants can “go anywhere” in his home state but they “just need to be conservative”. During a televised debate forum with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison on Friday, Graham was asked about the civil unrest across the U.S. and in South Carolina in connection with system racism and police reform.
Many believe that Graham attempted to argue that African Americans will only be successful in the statewide elective office if they are not liberal.
“I care about everybody,” Graham said. “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 is fighting to keep his seat in the Senate against his political rival and former South Carolina Democratic party chair Harrison, who is Black.
Graham and Harris are tied, with 48% of support each, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last month.
To further argue that race is not a hindrance to success in the state, Graham mentioned former Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott – the state’s other U.S. senator, and only Black Republican senator – as people of color who have triumphed because they share the “values” of the state.
“…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 said during the forum. “Folks, it’s not about the color of your skin or where you came from, it’s about your ideas.”
The South Carolina legislator then turned his attention to his Democratic opponent, Harrison, saying that the former Black state legislator is going to lose “not because of race, but because he’s aligned with the most liberal people in the country.”
Graham’s comments have since sparked outrage across Twitter amid accusations of white supremacy and racism. Charlie Sykes, editor-at-large at The Bulwark, wrote: “Lindsey, 1954 wants its talking points back.”
California congressman Eric Swalwell said after seeing the video clip of the Republican senator making the remark: “Is that the fever talking, or the steroids?”
Calls have been made to donate to Harrison, who spoke before Graham at the one-hour forum. The conversation was initially planned as a debate, which would have been the second between the two candidates. It was, however, canceled after Graham rejected taking a COVID-19 test. So the two were asked questions separately at the Spartanburg studios of WSPA-TV.
During his segment of the forum, Harrison, who was also asked about civil unrest and police brutality, said he is all for a national register that will expose “bad police officers.”
“There are some bad apples in the system that need to be rooted out. We need to bring some accountability to the system,” he said.