Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday pushed back against President Joe Biden’s remarks that “systemic racism” exists in the United States, saying that the elections of former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris prove otherwise.
Graham’s comments came in response to remarks made by the president on April 20 following the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the May 2020 death of George Floyd, who died in police custody.
Biden at the time called systemic racism “a stain on our nation’s soul—the knee on the neck of justice for black Americans—profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every single day.”
Graham cited the elections of Obama, who is African American and was in office from January 2009 to January 2017, and Harris, who is South Asian and Black.
“Not in my opinion. We just elected a two-term African-American president. The vice president is of African-American-Indian descent. So our systems are not racist. America is not a racist country,” Graham responded during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
“So this attack on police and policing—reform the police … You know, America is a work in progress but [it’s the] best place on the planet and Joe Biden spent a lot of time running the place down. I wish he would stop it,” he told host Chris Wallace.
Chauvin, 45, who was found guilty by jurors of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder in Floyd’s death, is one of society’s “bad actors,” Graham suggested.
Floyd, 46, was restrained on the ground after resisting being placed into a patrol car when he was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 at a nearby store. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck and back to restrain him for over nine minutes. By the time an ambulance arrived, Floyd had stopped breathing.
Chauvin faces the prospect of 40 years in prison. Under Minnesota law, criminals only face jail time on their most serious crime if all charges are from a single act.
“The Chauvin trial was a just result. What’s happening in Ohio where the police officer had to use deadly force to prevent a young girl from being stabbed to death is a different situation, in my view,” Graham said.
The Republican senator was referring to the fatal officer-involved shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Ohio last week. Bryant of Columbus was seen on body camera footage being shot by an officer after she lunged at another young woman while holding a knife.
In a subsequent Fox News interview on Sunday, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, opposed Graham’s remarks.
“My response is, at some point in our country’s history, we have got to figure out a way to talk about race where we can talk about it objectively and people don’t feel individual guilt,” Bass said.
She added, “You can look at each of our institutions. Why is there such massive inequality when it comes to education, when it comes to health care? Why does that exist? And so we have to figure out a way to talk about it. Right now, to say it doesn’t exist does not help anyone.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.