WASHINGTON — Stressing that the violence of 300 years of racism in America is not equivalent to the anarchist Antifa protesters, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said he wasn’t confident President Trump would have an “epiphany” on race in America after the two had a candid chat at the White House on Wednesday.
The White House, along with a photo calling the senator “Tom” Scott, said in a statement released after the meeting that they discussed the “administration’s relationship with the African-American community, the bipartisan issue of improving race relations, and creating a more unified country.”
“President Trump remains committed to positive race relations and looks forward to continuing the dialogue with Senator Scott, the African-American community, and leaders from diverse communities across the country, all of which have a wealth of perspectives and experiences with respect to this issue,” the readout continued.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said that the two talked about Charlottesville “pretty in-depth, but the focus was primarily on solutions moving forward.”
Scott (R-S.C.) told Vice News in a sit-down interview after the deadly Charlottesville protest last month that he was “not going to defend the indefensible” after Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” of the white nationalist rally and blamed both sides for the violence after counter-protesters were run over, killing Heather Heyer. “What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority,” the senator said, adding “that moral authority is compromised” with the comments Trump made.
The only black GOP senator, Scott has been frank about issues facing the African-American community including a highly personal floor speech last year on his frustrating experiences with law enforcement even as a member of Congress.
Scott told CBS after Wednesday’s Oval Office meeting that Trump has “obviously reflected on what he has said, on his intentions and the perception of those comments” about Charlottesville. “I’ll let him discuss how he feels about it, but he was certainly very clear that the perception that he received on his comments was not exactly what he intended with those comments.”
“What I wanted to get out of the conversation was a focus on fairness and opportunity,” the senator explained. “Most people of color and frankly all Americans, want to be treated fairly in this nation, and they want access to opportunities.”
Axios, based on three sources with knowledge of the meeting, reported that the sit-down lasted for about half an hour and Scott shared his personal story with the president of being raised by a single mom in a poor Southern household. They reported that Scott “echoed the critical comments he made about the president after Charlottesville, explaining why he was troubled by them, and rooting them in the black experience in America — a history of slavery, grotesque violence and discrimination.”
The New York Times reported that Scott “delivered a pointed lecture on America’s 300-year legacy of racism” to Trump. Asked afterward if Trump had expressed regret for his Charlottesville comments, Scott replied, “He certainly tried to explain what he was trying to convey.”
Aboard Air Force One today, Trump told reporters that he and Scott “had a great talk… I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also. And essentially that’s what I said.”
“Now because of what’s happened since then, with Antifa, you look at, you know, really what’s happened since Charlottesville — a lot of people are saying — in fact a lot of people have actually written, ‘gee, Trump might have a point.’ I said, you got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true,” Trump said. “But we had a great conversation and he also has legislation, which I actually like very much — the concept of which, I support — to get people going into certain areas and building and constructing and putting people to work. And I told him yesterday, that’s a concept I could support very easily.”
Trump also acknowledged that Scott asked him to add diversity to his administration staff. “I told him I would do it,” the president said.
Of Trump’s latest comments, Scott told BuzzFeed, “At the end of the day, I voiced my concerns about the thought that somehow three centuries of American history of raping and murdering people based on their color is somehow equal to what Antifa is doing today.”
“He is who he has been and I didn’t go in there to change who he was; I wanted to inform and educate a different perspective,” Scott said. “I think we accomplished that. To assume that immediately thereafter he’s going to have an epiphany is just unrealistic.”
Scott’s office released a statement emphasizing that, in his meeting with Trump, the senator was “very, very clear about the brutal history surrounding the white supremacist movement and their horrific treatment of black and other minority groups.”
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and to expect the president’s rhetoric to change based on one 30-minute conversation is unrealistic. Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but the KKK and white supremacist groups have been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There is no realistic comparison. Period,” the statement continued.
“At the same time, it was encouraging to hear the president commit, as he did yesterday in their meeting, to diversifying his staff, as well as make clear his support for the senator’s Investing in Opportunity Act. These are concrete steps that will help our poor and minority communities and ensure their voices are heard. No matter what is said or not said, the senator will continue his efforts to unite our nation and move forward as one American family.”