Lindsey Graham set off a social media storm on Friday evening when he said that young black people and immigrants can “go anywhere” in South Carolina, but added, “you just need to be conservative, not liberal.”
As of Saturday morning, a video clip of the Republican senator making the remark has been viewed 3 million times.
There were shocked reactions and accusations of white supremacy and racism to the breathtaking comments.
Charlie Sykes, editor-at-large at The Bulwark, wrote: “Lindsey, 1954 wants its talking points back.”
The comment was part of a lengthy response to a question from Carolyn Murray of NBC affiliate WCDB: “How will you address civil unrest in South Carolina?”
It is thought that Graham was attempting to argue that race is not a barrier to success in the state, citing former governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott, both Republicans.
The incident took place in a televised forum that was originally intended to be a debate between the two candidates. Instead, both candidates were quizzed separately for 30 minutes each.
The format was changed after Graham refused to be tested for Covid-19 as requested by Mr Harrison.
Lindsey, 1954 wants its talking point back. https://t.co/snJ6xCpos9
— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) October 10, 2020
After seeing the clip of Graham’s remarks about race, California congressman Eric Swalwell said: “Is that the fever talking, or the steroids?”
There is speculation that Graham is concerned that a positive result would delay the scheduled Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
After the announcement of her nomination more than a dozen attendees tested positive for the virus.
Suggesting that Mr Harrison sought “special treatment” to get out of the debate, Senator Graham said that he would “follow the guidance of my doctors, not my political opponent.”
— Crowdericka App-eldritch 👻 (@Rodericka) October 10, 2020
Graham has found himself in an unexpectedly tough re-election battle in traditionally deep-red South Carolina. He and Harrison are tied at 48 per cent, according to the latest polling.
Is that the fever talking, or the steroids? https://t.co/Y9t3fAMvV1
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) October 10, 2020
The senator has twice appeared on Fox News begging for campaign donations after a surge in donations to the Democratic candidate following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Graham’s about-face regarding putting new justices on the court in an election year.
The two met in a televised debate a week prior in which Mr Harrison hammered Graham on his record as senator and hypocrisy regarding judicial nominations.