McConnell clarifies comment made about Black voters
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is walking back remarks made this week, clarifying that he did not mean to say that turnout among Black voters is the same as it is among “Americans.”
“Well, the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans,” McConnell said during a news conference on Wednesday night.
The statement appeared to imply that Black voters were not American, reinforcing voting rights advocates’ concerns that Republicans in state legislatures across the country are attempting to prevent Black people from exercising their right to vote.
The remark came on the same day McConnell filibustered the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in the Senate, both of which Democrats are continuing to push to challenge what they see as strict new voting laws in Republican-controlled states.
Friday, while McConnell was in Louisville for the Kentucky Transportation Conference, the Senate minority leader claimed that one omitted word resulted in a “outrageous mischaracterization” of him.
A reporter asked the Senator, “What’s your message for voters of color who are concerned that without the John L. Lewis Voting Rights Act, you’re not going to be able to vote in the midterm?”
“Well, the concern is misplaced,” McConnell said. “Because if you look at the statistics, African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”
On Friday, McConnell said he should have said “all Americans.”
McConnell’s original comment generated a tweet storm, including one from democratic US Senate candidate Charles Booker who tweeted, “Being Black doesn’t make you less of an American.”
“And what he said in his comment exposed his understanding of structural racism,” Booker said Friday. “Because he realizes that in his eyes, and in the eyes of a lot of people in leadership, everyone isn’t seen as equal.”
Scott Jennings, a McConnell advisor heard the Senator’s comment differently.
“The point he was making is that it’s never been easier or more in vogue frankly to vote in the United States of America,” Jennings said. “And that’s a good thing. He was saying that’s a good thing.”
McConnell bristled at the criticism that followed.
“This outrageous mischaracterization of my record as the result of leaving one word out inadvertently the other day which I just now supplied to you, is deeply offensive,” McConnell said Friday.
McConnell then emphasized his background in race relations and voting rights, claiming to have been in the audience when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. He also said he witnessed the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
He also talked about his support for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
“I think he would confirm with you that I recruited him to run,” McConnell said. “Supported him and I am proud of him. I have had African-American speech writers, schedulers, office managers over the years. I think that this mis-characterization of my record is offensive and outrageous.”
As a student at the University of Louisville, McConnell explained how he helped organize the March on Frankfort, which called for legislation to end discrimination and segregation.
“Have we improved in every way we conceivably could?” he said Friday. “I’m sure we haven’t, but America has been a work in progress since 1787 when they adopted the Constitution forward. My view is we’ve made an awful lot of progress, but we still have a ways to go.”
It’s not the first time Senator McConnell has been chastised for his remarks. When asked about reparations for descendants of U.S. slaves in 2019, he said, “We’ve elected an African American president.” The response sparked outrage, with some claiming he implied that by electing President Barack Obama, the country had paid for “the sin of slavery.”
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