Lindsey Graham refuses COVID test before debate with Democratic challenger and sparks outrage by saying blacks and immigrants are welcome in South Carolina - as long as they're conservative

 Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina refused to take a COVID-19 test before Friday's debate with his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, who then pulled out of the event and forced the candidates to do separate television interviews instead.

Graham then raised eyebrows when he made comments interpreted by some to mean that blacks and immigrants would only be welcome in the Palmetto State if they adopted conservative political views.

The incumbent Republican senator was asked about his views on the racial tensions that have risen nationwide since the May 25 police-involved death of a Minneapolis black man, George Floyd.

Graham said he backed police reform and that 'people should pay a price' for what happened to Floyd.

Senator Lindsey Graham
Jaime Harrison

Senator Lindsey Graham (left) sparked outrage on Friday when he refused to take a COVID-19 test before a scheduled debate with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison (right). The South Carolina Republican also drew attention for comments about blacks and immigrants needing to hold conservative views to win election in South Carolina

GRAHAM'S COMMENTS ABOUT BLACKS AND IMMIGRANTS START AT 42:25 

But he then added: 'What is happening in America... is a war on the police itself.'

Graham said that he supports both 'reforming the police' and 'having the cops' back.'

The senator then said he backed criminal justice reform measures that reduced sentences for convicts sent to prison for nonviolent crime.


When asked if he met with Black Lives Matter supporters, Graham responded that he met with pastors and other public officials in the African American community. 

He then went on to defend police. 

'Do I believe that our cops are systemically racist? No. Do I believe that South Carolina is a racist state? No,' Graham said. 

'To young people of color, to young immigrants, this is a great state.'

Graham then said that African Americans can represent South Carolina in the Senate - but only if they 'share the values of our state.'

He mentioned Senator Tim Scott, the only black member of the US Senate, who is also a Republican from South Carolina.

Graham then mentioned Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants and the former governor of South Carolina who served as President Trump's ambassador to the United Nations. 

Haley is considered by many a rising star in the Republican Party who could run for the presidency in 2024. 

'It's not about the color of your skin or where you came from,' Graham said. 'It's about ideas.'

Senator Tim Scott
Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the United Nations

Graham said that minority politicians can win election in South Carolina only if they adopt conservative views, citing Senator Tim Scott (left) and former Governor Nikki Haley (right)

On Twitter, however, some interpreted Graham's comments to mean that blacks and immigrants aren't welcome in South Carolina if they are liberal

On Twitter, however, some interpreted Graham's comments to mean that blacks and immigrants aren't welcome in South Carolina if they are liberal

One Twitter user said Graham's comments were taken out of context

One Twitter user said Graham's comments were taken out of context

The senator said he believes he will win because his 'conservative philosophy...fits our state' while Harrison will lose 'because he's aligned with the most liberal people in the country.'

'I am asking every African-American out there, look at my record,' Graham said, adding that he has historically backed black colleges and universities.

'I care about everybody, if you are a young African-American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative, not liberal.' 

Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee set to consider Trump's Supreme Court nominee next week, defended his decision to refuse to be tested for the coronavirus.

The issue could prove to be a critical one in Washington.

Graham is expected to preside in person over next week's hearings on the confirmation of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat made vacant by the death last month of liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Should Graham test positive and be forced into 10 days or more of quarantine, that could postpone the hearings, something Republicans have fiercely opposed.

Two other Republican senators on the committee, Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, tested positive after attending a September 26 ceremony where Trump announced Barrett as his nominee.

Most attendees were not wearing masks and several have since tested positive.

Of the Judiciary Committee's 22 members, 10 are age 68 or older. 

They include the Senate's two oldest senators, Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican Chuck Grassley, both 87.

Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is thought to not want to take a COVID-19 test so as not to risk delaying the confirmation hearings for Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett (pictured above on October 1)

Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is thought to not want to take a COVID-19 test so as not to risk delaying the confirmation hearings for Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett (pictured above on October 1)

Feinstein and other Democrats on the panel penned a letter to Graham, 65, saying he is putting Barrett and the senators at 'serious risks' by holding the hearing, especially without mandatory testing for participants.

'We urge you against unsafely moving forward with these hearings while no clear testing regime is in place to ensure that they do not become another super-spreader of this deadly virus,' wrote the Democrats.

One of the signatories was Senator Kamala Harris, who is Democratic nominee Joe Biden's vice presidential running mate.

In defending his own refusal to be tested, Graham tweeted that his challenger Harrison was 'putting himself above others' by insisting on different treatment for him and Graham than for other South Carolinians.

Lindsey Graham refuses COVID test before debate with Democratic challenger and sparks outrage by saying blacks and immigrants are welcome in South Carolina - as long as they're conservative Lindsey Graham refuses COVID test before debate with Democratic challenger and sparks outrage by saying blacks and immigrants are welcome in South Carolina - as long as they're conservative Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 04:36 Rating: 5

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