Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, was harshly chastised for claiming that African-Americans were not really American.
After two Democratic senators refused to go along with a plan to change Senate rules to overcome a GOP filibuster of voting rights legislation, the Kentucky Republican spoke to reporters, and he was asked what he would say to voters of color who are concerned about their access to the polls ahead of last November’s midterm elections.
“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.” McConnell’s comments were promptly chastised on social media.
“I am writing today in response to your recent comment on voting rights in which you insinuated that African Americans are somehow not American citizens,” Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin condemned the remark in a letter.
“This is 2022 and being American is not synonymous with looking or thinking like you. African Americans are, in fact, American citizens deserving of our recognition, respect, and equal protection under the law.”
Latino Rebels reporter Pablo Manrquez questioned McConnell during the Republican leadership’s weekly news conference on Wednesday what his message was to people of color who are worried they won’t be able to vote in the elections if Congress fails to enact the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“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.”
A spokesman for McConnell’s office said the senator meant to say “other Americans” not just “Americans.”
The apparent error has sparked outrage on the left, with activists adopting the hashtag #Mitchplease to address the Republican leader on Twitter.
“It’s definitely giving #MitchPlease. African Americans are ARE Americans, 365 days a year!” posted by the Congressional Black Caucus account on Twitter.
In a statement released by McConnell’s campaign on Thursday, he said he has “consistently pointed to the record-high turnout for all voters in the 2020 election, including African-Americans.”
This isn’t the first time McConnell has been chastised for remarks about race and racial prejudice in the United States.
“We’ve elected an African American president,” he stated in part when questioned about his views on slavery reparations in anticipation of a historic House hearing on the subject in 2019. Outrage ensued, with some claiming he implied that the country had paid for “the sin of slavery” by electing Barack Obama.
When asked about the racial history of the filibuster last year, McConnell said, “It has no racial history at all. None.”
“For more than a century the filibuster was widely understood to be primarily dedicated to maintaining White supremacy and blocking civil rights,” Adam Jentleson, author of “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of Democracy,” said at the time.
A spokesperson for McConnell later clarified that the senator “was referring to the origins of the filibuster.”