01:05 - Source: CNN
Protests largely peaceful on day 3

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"They hate white people, because white people are successful and they're not," Pittenger said

He later issued an apology over the remarks

Washington CNN  — 

A congressman who represents North Carolina apologized Thursday for saying there are riots in Charlotte because the protesters “hate white people.”

“The grievance in their mind is that the animus, the anger – they hate white people, because white people are successful and they’re not,” Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican, said on the BBC’s “Newsnight.” “I mean, yes, it is, it is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, where we put people in bondage so that they cannot be all that they’re capable of being.”

Pittenger, who has represented North Carolina’s ninth congressional district since 2013, emphasized that people come to the United States for opportunities, not government handouts.

Obama: Violent protests won’t solve policing issues

“America is a country of opportunity and freedom and liberty,” he said. “It didn’t become that way because of a great government who provided everything for everyone, no.”

Pittenger told CNN’s Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight” Thursday that he was repeating comments he’d heard from protesters.

“Frankly, I was quoting what they were saying last night on what I observed on your network. And their hatred for white people,” Pittenger said. “And that saddens me greatly.”

“You believe the protesters hate white people?” Lemon asked.

“No, no, sir. It’s the comment that they made. I think you can go back and look at the tapes. The comments that they made on air,” Pittenger responded.

“You mean the protesters made on air?” Lemon asked.

“Yes sir. I was only trying to convey what they were saying and yet, it didn’t come out right, and I apologize. I have many, many good friends in the African-American community,” he said.

Pittenger’s office also released a statement apologizing for comments, saying he didn’t mean to offend anyone.

“What is taking place in my hometown right now breaks my heart. My anguish led me to respond to a reporter’s question in a way that I regret,” he said in the statement. “The answer doesn’t reflect who I am. I was quoting statements made by angry protesters last night on national TV. My intent was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African-Americans because of failed policies. I apologize to those I offended and hope we can bring peace and calm to Charlotte.”

On Tuesday in Charlotte, Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American, was shot by a police officer after refusing repeated demands to put down what authorities said was a gun.

Riots and protests in the city began that night and continued on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

President Barack Obama weighed in on the unrest Thursday, saying that the anger should be directed toward pushing needed reforms.