Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds expressed frustration on Thursday that he has not been allowed to join the Congressional Black Caucus despite communicating his interest in doing do.
Donalds said he has “not really heard much from the CBC” in the months since he expressed interest, although other lawmakers also elected in 2020 were inducted into the group more than six months ago. During a CNN interview, Donalds said, “I’m allowed to have my own thoughts.”
Donalds made the comments after the CBC said in a statement to CNN, “We will work with those who share our values and priorities for the constituents we serve.”
Donalds, a proud Donald Trump supporter who voted to deny certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory, also used his CNN appearance to defend a slew of voting bills being introduced across the country that are expected to limited Black Americans’ access to the polls.
“The Congressional Black Caucus remains committed to fighting for issues that support Black communities, including the police accountability bill, protecting voting rights and a jobs bill that helps our communities,” the group said in a statement.
CNN host Brianna Keilar pressed Donalds on Thursday about whether his values are “incongruent” with the priorities of the CBC.
“They’re basically saying they don’t think you share their values and priorities for the constituents they serve,” Keilar said.
But according to Donalds, who described himself as a “poor kid from Brooklyn,” he would offer a helpful perspective as member of the CBC.
“I have a perspective being a 42-year-old Black man who’s come up in America after a lot of the battles through the civil rights movement that I think would actually be helpful and a helpful perspective to the CBC,” Donalds said. “Whether they want to take advantage of that is really up to them.”
The CBC is nominally partisan but currently there are no Republican members in the group.
Donalds told Politico in February that he wanted to shift the caucus away from its predominately liberal voice.
“Obviously, the dominant voice in the CBC tends to be Democrat or liberal voices, and I want to bring change to that,” he said.
As Keilar asked Donalds about his support for Trump, she played a supercut of some of his most controversial racial statements, including when the former president remarked “Look at my African-American over here” during a 2016 rally in Arizona, defended the Confederate flag as a representation of the South, and told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during a September presidential debate.
“Do you think your defense of a person who said things like that might be incongruent with the mission of the CBC?” Keilar asked.
“Whatever the president said in the past has nothing to do with this at all, Donalds said. “As a Black man in America I’m allowed to have my own thoughts on who I chose to support and on who I choose not to support.”
A spokesperson for Donalds told The Hill multiple team members have reached out to the CBC but “all we’ve got is the cold shoulder.” The CBC has not responded directly to allegations that it is blocking Donalds from joining.