Politicians and pundits from both sides condemned a Washington Post probe into Sen. Tim Scott’s claim that his ancestors picked cotton. Scott emerged from the scandal a household name, but the MAGA crowd isn’t sold on him.
Politicians often embellish their family histories. Elizabeth Warren lied about her Native American ancestry and was christened “Pocahontas” by Donald Trump for her fib. Kamala Harris was ridiculed when she claimed that she cried out “Fweedom!” as a two-year-old at a civil rights march.
Sen. Tim Scott, a black Republican from South Carolina, has often spoken about how his grandfather was “forced out of school as a third-grader to pick cotton,” in a heartwarming story of how a poor family went “from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”
The Washington Post decided this week to do some digging into the story. Poring through census records, land deeds, draft cards and obituaries, the Post concluded – in over 29 paragraphs – that Scott’s grandfather did pick cotton, but on a large farm owned by his father. In another twist of the knife into Scott’s tale, the Post pointed out that, at the time, less than one in eight black farmers in the South at that time owned any land at all.
The Republican Party leapt to Scott’s defense, with lawmakers and pundits decrying the article as an attempt to punish minority conservatives who “think for ourselves,” in the words of former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
What WaPo did to @SenatorTimScott is shameful. When minorities refuse to be victims, disagree with liberal talking points, and think for ourselves, the media shames us and questions our credibility. It’s why we must fight harder for conservative values that lift us all up. https://t.co/k7Qnle7gHz
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) April 23, 2021
Owning Tim Scott by pointing out that his ancestors were an unbelievable American success story, buying hundreds of acres despite the crippling legal racism they had to withstand https://t.co/LzdKKkO5c6
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 23, 2021
The white leftists trying to nullify Tim Scott’s family’s experience out of anger that they moved up in life and he became Republican are the same ones who defended Elizabeth Warren’s wholly baseless claim of indigenous ancestry.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) April 23, 2021
Democrats came to his aid too, with Rep. Karen Bass (California) and CNN host and former lawmaker Bakari Sellers condemning the article.
Tim Scott is an honorable man. It doesn’t matter what party you’re in – the journey of his family, from cotton to Congress in one lifetime, should be celebrated.https://t.co/W3vbIwI3nZ
— Karen Bass (@KarenBassTweets) April 24, 2021
Scott’s story was not fact-checked at random. Instead, the Post published its investigation a day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that Scott would deliver his party’s rebuttal to Biden’s first speech to Congress next week. The announcement, the article, and Scott’s speech itself will have together made the South Carolinian one of the GOP’s most recognizable faces by the end of next week.
For GOP leadership, he is a safe choice. With racial tension still dividing the country, he can hardly be written off by Democrats as a racist and, unlike Trump, he’s a moderate, willing to concede to Democrats on key policy issues, like when he worked with Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kamala Harris to pass a controversial and arguably unnecessary anti-lynching bill in 2019, and attempted to incorporate some of the Democrats’ demands into a police reform bill after the murder of George Floyd last summer. Endorsed by Trump for next year’s midterm elections, he’s a polished centrist who gives the GOP a chance to show off its new, minority-friendly face, after Trump made historic inroads with black and Latino voters in November’s election.
But conservatives aren’t all convinced. Some Trump supporters see Scott as a milquetoast candidate who’ll avoid sensitive cultural battles and cede ground to the left. “Don’t Believe The Hype,” read an article from the pro-Trump news site Revolver, reposted on Saturday, “Tim Scott is Not The Future of The Republican Party.”
Look, Scott is probably a nice man, but he is NOT the right messenger. He represents Bush GOP. Wrong on immigration, wrong on trade, wrong on the culture, and wrong on foreign policy. He is not going to bring any sort of winning coalition. People will simply tune out.
— VA Conservative (@VACon81) April 23, 2021
A year ago when The System was creating the ABSURD narrative that the cops were the problem, Tim Scott walked up to that flame and dumped gasoline all over it. He’s as responsible for these endless riots as BLM. He helped set the narrative. https://t.co/QrhYYWW0vC
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) April 22, 2021
So Tim Scott is giving a systemic racism address for the GOP?
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) April 22, 2021
Scott’s willingness to compromise with the left has seen him torpedo the nomination of two conservative judges for allegedly offensive articles they wrote in the past, and he pressed for the prosecution of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin following George Floyd’s death, and the police officer who shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, later last summer.
Scott’s ascendancy comes as the Republican Party grapples with its post-Trump future. Trump remains the most popular 2024 candidate among Republican voters by a long shot, and some top Republican lawmakers have urged their colleagues to get on board with his “America First” agenda and economic populism to “permanently become the Party of the Working Class.”
Others, like Haley, have distanced themselves from Trump and condemned him publicly following the Capitol Hill riot in January. Whatever side wins out, outlets like the Washington Post are likely waiting with more deep-dives into the past infractions of the party’s rising stars, however minor.
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