Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing fierce criticism for comments he made this week in response to a question about the concerns of voters of color.
Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin condemned the remark in a letter to the Kentucky Republican, saying, “I am writing today in response to your recent comment on voting rights in which you insinuated that African Americans are somehow not American citizens.”
“This is 2022 and being American is not synonymous with looking or thinking like you. African Americans are, in fact, American citizens deserving of our recognition, respect, and equal protections under the law.”
At the Republican leadership’s weekly news conference held on Wednesday, Latino Rebels reporter Pablo Manríquez asked McConnell what his message was to voters of color who are concerned they would not be able to vote in the midterms if Congress failed to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“Well, the concern is misplaced because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans,” McConnell said. “A recent survey, 94% of Americans thought it was easy to vote. This is not a problem. Turn out is up.”
Asked by CNN whether the senator had left out a word in his comment, a spokesman for his office said McConnell meant to say “other Americans” not just “Americans.”
The apparent misstatement has led to heavy criticism from the left, with groups using the Twitter hashtag #Mitchplease to address the Republican leader.
“It’s definitely giving #MitchPlease. African Americans are ARE Americans, 365 days a year!” read a tweet posted by the Congressional Black Caucus account.
McConnell, in a statement provided to CNN on Thursday by his team, said he has “consistently pointed to the record-high turnout for all voters in the 2020 election, including African-Americans.”
This is not the first time McConnell has come under fire for comments pertaining to issues of race and racial discrimination in America.
In 2019, when asked about his position on reparations for slavery in advance of a historic House hearing on the matter, he said in part, “We’ve elected an African American president.” The response sparked outrage, with some arguing he had suggested the country paid for “the sin of slavery” by electing Barack Obama.
And last year when asked about the racial history of the filibuster, McConnell responded, “It has no racial history at all. None.”
“For more than a century the filibuster was widely understood to be primarily dedicated to maintaining White supremacy and blocking civil rights,” Adam Jentleson, author of “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of Democracy,” said at the time.
A spokesperson for McConnell later clarified that the senator “was referring to the origins of the filibuster.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.