Republican Sen. Tim Scott pushed on Thursday at liberal claims that the Republican Party has used him as a token black legislator.
The South Carolina Republican was being interviewed Thursday on “Today” by Craig Melvin and Al Roker.
Scott appeared to talk about the progress being made in the Senate on the Justice Act, a landmark piece of legislation designed to address police reforms.
Calling police reform “an issue whose time has come,” Scott spoke about the far-reaching ramifications of the legislation.
“We work on body cameras, more notification, grants on de-escalating the aggression that we see caught on videos, we look at the use of force. We have a commission to study some of the issues. We also talk about the duty to intervene,” he said.
“The three officers that were standing there as the one officer was on Mr. Floyd’s neck, we think that there should be a duty to intervene. So we’re trying to provide the resources necessary to retrain these local departments, as well as provide more incentives for policies to change. If we do that part, we will make a difference.”
But Melvin wanted to take the conversation in a different direction.
“Senator, you have faced a fair amount of criticism, especially over the past few days, because you are the only black Republican senator. Some have said that your party is using you, they’ve even thrown around the word ‘token,’ as well. Your response to that criticism?” he said.
Scott noted that he has taken on a lead on the legislation precisely because of his race.
“Well, I am also the only person in my conference who has been racially profiled, driving while black. I’m the only one in my conference that’s been stopped seven times in one year as an elected official, perhaps the only one in my conference wearing this Senate pin that was stopped from coming into the building. So if there’s someone in the conference who understands discrimination and profiling, it’s me,” Scott replied.
“It’s the reason why I asked to lead this charge because it is a personal issue, it is the right issue. And frankly, I think it helps to have someone who’s been a victim of this situation and who still has a tremendous respect for where our country can go together,” he continued.
“So I shrug those comments and criticisms off. But you’ve got to know, when you’re a black Republican, you’re like a unicorn. People are going to criticize you when you wake up, when you go to sleep. If you say you like apple pie and football, there’s a lot of critics for that, too. So God bless their souls.”
Roker then asked Scott to react to the fact that Trump is having in a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, noting that race riots occurred in the city many decades ago and tossing in the fact that the rally date is “Juneteenth,” a day marked by some as the end of slavery.
The host also wanted Scott’s take on Trump’s resistance to renaming military installations that bear the names of former Confederate generals.
Scott said the issue if statues is important, but argued that other things are also vital to the nation.
“I’d like to spend as much energy about monuments — that is an important conversation — I’d love to spend the equal amount of energy talking about school choice and public and charter schools. I’d love to spend more time talking about issues that make a better future, as much as we are looking in the past,” Scott said.
Scott was asked about the calls in some communities to reduce or eliminate police funding.
“I’d tap the brakes,” Scott said. “You can do two things at one time. One, you have to continue to provide necessary resources to our police departments, but we may need to take a look at what should be included in that funding.”
Scott noted that mental health issues “can’t be really addressed by a law enforcement officer. That needs to be addressed by a social worker or a mental health expert. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for us to include, in police departments, more mental health experts.”
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