Sen. Lindsey Graham says Black people are free to 'go anywhere' in South Carolina so long as they're conservative

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Friday during a candidate forum that Black Americans are safe in the state as long as they're conservative.
  • "If you're a young African American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state. You just need to be conservative, not liberal," Graham said.
  • The Republican senator also said he believes in some elements of police reform such as mandating the use of body cameras and de-escalation trainings but sympathized with police officers.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Friday night young people of color are safe in South Carolina but only if they are not liberal. 

"I care about everybody," Graham said, speaking at a forum for South Carolina Senate candidates. "If you're a young African American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state. You just need to be conservative, not liberal."


Graham is fighting to keep his Senate seat against Jaime Harrison, a Black former state legislator who spoke at the forum just before him. Polls show that Graham and Harris are tied, with 48% of support each, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted the last week of September.

At the forum, Graham spoke about his support for South Carolina police officers, but said the police killing of George Floyd in May "was wrong and people should pay the price." Floyd's death and other incidents of police brutality have led to widespread calls for police reform. 

"Do I believe that our cops are systemically racist? No. Do I believe that South Carolina is a racist state? No," Graham said at the event. "To young people of color, to young immigrants, this is a great state. The one thing I can say without any doubt, you can be an African American and go to the Senate. You just have to share the values of our state."

Graham then pointed to Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, "the only African American Republican in the country," he said. Graham also name-dropped "daughter of Indian Americans" Nikki Haley, who is the former governor of South Carolina.

"In South Carolina, folks, it's not about the color of your skin or where you came from, it's about your ideas," Graham continued. 

His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Asked specifically about police reform, Graham said he supports various initiatives like requiring body cameras and de-escalation training to better hold police officers accountable. 

"But you have no idea what it's like to be a cop now," Graham continued. "I've talked to police officers all over this state. They feel abandoned. They feel like they're the bad guy. I'm not going to be part of that movement. I am not going to empower what I think is an assault on law and order. With me, you will get reform. But I am not going to abandon the cops. With me, I will stand up to the mobs."

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