Sen. Lindsey Graham on Wednesday clarified that he was being sarcastic when he referred to the “good old days of segregation” and blasted his opponent for seeking to capitalize on the comments.
During a recess in the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Graham (R-S.C.) insisted to reporters that his comments were made in jest and accused Jaime Harrison of launching a disingenuous attack.
“It was with deep sarcasm that I suggested that some legislative body would want to yearn for the good old days of segregationism,” the senator said. “The point that I’m trying to make, there’s nobody in America in the legislative arena wanting to take us back to that dark period in American history and for my opponent to suggest that says far more about him than me.”
“I want to make sure that everybody in my state moves forward,” he told reporters, emphasizing that nearly a third of his constituents are Black. “And in terms of that statement, it blows my mind that any rational person could believe that about me.”
The Senate Judiciary chair made the comments offhand while discussing so-called Supreme Court super-precedent with Barrett.
While questioning Barrett’s refusal to classify the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade as one such super-precedent, Graham pointed out that the Supreme Court still hears litigation targeting the ruling, unlike rulings such as Brown v. Board of Education, which deemed racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
“One of the reasons you can say with confidence that you think Brown v. the Board of Education is super-precedent is that you are not aware of any effort to go back to the good old days of segregation by a legislative body, is that correct?” Graham asked the judge, to which she responded in the affirmative.
Graham’s Democratic opponent in what has become a surprisingly tight Senate race seized on the remarks.
“@LindseyGrahamSC called segregation ‘the good old days,’” Harrison, who is Black, said in a tweet. “The good old days for who, Senator? It’s 2020, not 1920. Act like it.”
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” Harrison added in a subsequent tweet, followed by a fundraising plea.
Graham cast Harrison’s attack as below the belt, asserting that “this is not a game we’re playing here with the people of South Carolina.” And while he pointed out that “there are plenty of differences between my opponent and myself,” Graham called Harrison’s criticism “not worthy of the times in which we live” and “not worthy of an assault on me.”
He concluded: “I want to assure the people of South Carolina that statement was made with dripping sarcasm.”
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