Sen. Tim Scott declined Tuesday to “reflect seriously” on comments made by a civil rights activist who accused Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, of being a puppet for the Tea Party.
“Instead, I will honor the memory of Dr. King by being proactive in holding the door for others and serving my fellow man,” Scott said in a statement. “And Rev. (William) Barber will remind me and others of what not to do.”
Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, made the initial comments in a speech at a church in the senator’s home state of South Carolina.
“A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy,” Barber said Sunday night, according to The State.
Barber said “the extreme right wing down here (in South Carolina) finds a black guy to be senator and claims he’s the first black senator since Reconstruction and then he goes to Washington, D.C., and articulates the agenda of the tea party.”
Barber’s remarks came as he was offering criticism of African-Americans who he said aren’t following in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., including black youths who kill each other and those “who wear their pants down to their knees,” according to The State.
Barber is a vocal political and civil rights activist who helped lead the “Moral Monday” demonstrations outside of state capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina last year. In an opinion piece for CNN.com, he detailed the movement’s resistance against what they saw as an aggressive conservative agenda pushed by the GOP-dominated legislature.
Scott, responding through the statement, said he has never met Barber.
“To reflect seriously on the comments a person, a pastor that is filled with baseless and meaningless rhetoric would be to do a disservice to the very people who have sacrificed so much and paved a way,” Scott said.
It’s not the first time Scott, the second black Republican to serve in the Senate after Reconstruction, has run into tension with civil rights activists.
His office said in August that organizers of the 50th anniversary March on Washington event did not invite the senator--one of only nine African Americans ever to hold office in the upper chamber--to speak at the ceremony.
Scott, who was a U.S. congressman at the time, was appointed to his Senate seat by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley in December 2012 after then-Sen. Jim DeMint announced he was retiring. Scott is running to keep the seat in a special election this November.
By Ashley Killough CNN News Wire