House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on Friday said America was not a racist country — echoing a remark made by Sen. Tim Scott on Wednesday that stoked fierce debate.
"We should stop arguing about whether or not this is a racist country. It is not," Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat and fellow South Carolinian told CNN. "A racist country would never elect Barack Obama president or Kamala Harris vice president," he added.
Clyburn’s remarks were in response to efforts in Florida to enact new voting rights laws that critics say would be restrictive. He added that even though he doesn’t believe the country is racist, there were still "racially tinged things that are taking place in Georgia, in Florida and many other states," referencing voting rights bills that have popped up in state legislatures across the country.
The two lawmakers are both Black men representing South Carolina in Congress, although they are worlds apart politically and ideologically. In 2019, Clyburn told the Post and Courier he had a "pleasant" relationship with Scott, but appeared to suggest last October that Scott, the GOP’s lone Black senator, was a Republican token.
In the interview, Clyburn also pushed back against Scott’s claim that Republicans were passing voting rights bills to make it harder to cheat in elections.
"It’s not accurate at all. There’s been no cheating taking place," Clyburn said. "This is just crazy stuff. And I would hope that Tim and everybody else would just stop perpetuating this foolishness," he added.
His position is in line with what President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday in interviews with NBC and ABC, respectively, where they both emphasized the need to acknowledge the history of racism in the United States.
"First of all, no, I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak the truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today," Harris said.
Those comments reflect a debate that was spurred in part by Scott, who delivered the GOP response to Biden’s first joint address to Congress on Wednesday.
"America is not a racist country," Scott said, while recounting his own experiences of discrimination.