GOP Sen. Tim Scott writes op-ed criticizing Republicans for silence on racism

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

GOP Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, responded to Rep. Steve King's controversial comments about white nationalism in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, saying that Republicans are accused of racism because they stay silent when people in the party make racist remarks.

King wondered to the New York Times this week: "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" King has a long history of making racist remarks and interacting with known white nationalists. Scott noted in his piece that white supremacism had resulted in violence and death not only in the past, but also recently, with the murder of two black people in Kentucky by a white supremacist and the violence of the Charlottesville protests.

"When people with opinions similar to King's open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole," Scott said. "Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said."

Scott argued that Republicans were accused of racism on immigration issues because of refusing to take action against comments like King's. He said that as a Republican, he supported border security "not because I want to keep certain ethnicities out of our nation, but because I support enforcing our laws."

"It is tempting to write King — or other extremists on race issues, such as black-nationalist Louis Farrakhan — as lonely voices in the wilderness, but they are far more dangerous than that," Scott wrote. "They continue to rip at the fabric of our nation, a country built on hope, strength and diversity."

King responded to the Times article on the House floor Friday. He did not apologize for his statements — just for the problems they had caused.

"I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district," King said.

Republicans widely condemned King's words this week, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney. However, no House Republicans said they would take action in response to King's remarks.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wrote on Twitter that "Republican leaders must actively support a worthy primary opponent to defeat King, because he won't have the decency to resign."

Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra announced this week that he was launching a primary challenge against King.

First published on January 11, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Grace Segers

Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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