Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is furious over criticisms he’s receiving this week after seemingly implying that Black people were not American.
The “inadvertent omission” occurred when the Republican politician was asked on Jan. 19 what he would tell Black voters who may be worried about their right to vote if Congress failed to pass some significant voting rights legislation that is now stalled because of GOP opposition in the Senate.
“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. “A recent survey, 94% of Americans thought it was easy to vote. This is not a problem. Turn out is up.”
McConnell was blasted almost immediately as his remarks were labeled racist and insulting by critics on social media.
“Let’s call mitch mcconnell what he is, a racist who has no business being in the senate” were just some of the posts made online following McConnell’s comments. “Black people are americans, through and through, and the only way to make sure they have the same opportunities as white americans is through systemic change via the voting rights act.”
“McConnell just summed up his and most (if not all Republicans views of the types of Americans),” wrote another critic. “His views are that there are Americans and then there are Black Americans.”
The NAACP spoke to the politician directly on Twitter, writing, “Senator McConnell, what is the difference between African Americans and Americans?”
In a statement to the Washington Post, McConnell and his team attempted to clarify that what the minority leader meant to say was “all Americans” instead of just “Americans.”
While speaking in his home state of Kentucky on Friday, Jan. 21, McConnell reiterated his explanation, telling reporters, “Look, I think I’ve made my point. I’ve never been accused of this sort of thing before.” He added, “It’s hurtful and offensive, and I think some of the critics know it’s totally nonsense.”
When asked again for his thoughts on the state of voting access in the country, McConnell said he prefers to highlight the positive things this country has done.
“Others look at where we are and point to the defects,” McConnell said. “The truth is, it’s some of both. We’ve made enormous progress, and I think to deny that is to deny the obvious. Have we improved in every way we conceivably could? I’m sure we haven’t.”
For progressives, at least, an improvement this nation still hasn’t made is one McConnell himself blocked on Wednesday, just hours of his controversial remark.
That evening all 50 Senate Republicans voted against voting rights legislation that is seen as key to restoring ballot access to African-Americans and other groups who have been affected by a wave of new restrictive election laws passed by Republican state legislatures around the nation.
In the face of that not-unexpected obstruction, on that same evening Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then moved to change the Senate filibuster rules that effectively force Democrats in that legislative body to get at least 10 Republican votes in order to pass bills like the voting rights proposals.
Schumer and proponents of the bills were thwarted there when Senate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona voted with the Republicans to block the rules change, killing any progress on voting rights for now — and possibly years to come.
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