Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sparked a firestorm of criticism by separating Black U.S. citizens from Americans.
McConnell made the comment at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Asked about voting rights legislation largely expected to fail in light of the Senate maintaining the filibuster, McConnell said that Democrats were sowing “fake hysteria” about voter suppression.
When reporter Pablo Manríquezer asked McConnell what he would say to people of color concerned about voter suppression, he brushed it off.
“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.”
Videos of his comment went viral. As of this writing, millions viewed the various versions circulating on Twitter.
Many believe that, by differentiating between them, McConnell is implying that Black people aren’t really American. This is a common belief among white supremacists.
“I am no less American than Mitch McConnell,” tweeted Charles Booker, a Democrat running for Senate in Kentucky. Booker is Black.
Many felt that McConnell’s comment wasn’t a misstatement or awkward phrasing so much as an expression of his true beliefs.
Jemele Hill tweeted, “He just accidentally fucked around and finally said it. In his eyes, the real Americans are white people.”
Many comments accused him of “saying the quiet part out loud.”
The comment proved irresistible to McConnell’s many critics.
“When Mitch McConnell says we don’t need to protect voting rights because ‘African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans,’ he makes it clear why we need to protect voting rights,” Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW) tweeted.
McConnell has not addressed criticisms of his comment.