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The difference between GOP and Dems couldn't be clearer after the Tuberville scandal

This week, Democrats rejected racism as Republicans tolerated it.
Photo collage: L.A. City Council members Gil Cedillo, Kevin DeLeon, Nury Martinez against a red background and Joe Biden against a black background.
MSNBC / Getty Images; AP

“When a Democrat says something racist or antisemitic, we hold Democrats accountable. When a MAGA Republican says something racist or antisemitic, they are embraced by cheering crowds and become celebrated.”

Those two lines - uttered Tuesday by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in response to bigoted comments made during a conversation involving three Los Angeles Democratic city council members - perfectly sum up the difference between today’s Republican and Democratic parties when it comes to embracing or rejecting hate. You don’t have to look any further for proof of this than how the two parties responded this week to racist remarks made by their respective elected officials.

The message sent was clear: Racism and bigotry have no place in the Democratic party.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported about a secretly recorded audio tape that captured a private meeting in October 2021 between Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, as well as Ron Herrera, the president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. While the meeting was ostensibly about political strategy, the recording featured an exchange of racist and bigoted remarks.

Some of the worst comments came from Martinez. One vile example was when she referred to the adopted Black son of fellow council member Mike Bonin — who is white and gay —as a “changuito” – Spanish for “little monkey.” She went on to slam Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, saying, "F--- that guy. He's with the Blacks."

The backlash by fellow Democrats was swift, with local Democratic officials from fellow council members to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti demanding the three lawmakers’ resignations. By Tuesday afternoon, President Biden — via his spokesperson Jean-Pierre — stated that “he believes that they all should resign.” As Jean-Pierre explained, “The language that was used and tolerated during that conversation was unacceptable and it was appalling.” And at Tuesday’s Los Angeles mayoral debate, the two leading candidates (both Democrats) — Rep. Karen Bass and Rick Caruso — joined the call for resignations. Facing vocal protests, Martinez resigned from the city council, while Herrera left his labor post.

The message sent was clear: Racism and bigotry have no place in the Democratic Party. Compare this to the reaction of the GOP leaders to Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville’s racist remarks in Nevada Saturday, during a Donald Trump rally for GOP candidates running in the state. Tuberville told the crowd that Democrats are “pro-crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have.”

Then the former college football coach — building to a scream — bellowed: "They want reparation because they think the people that do the crime are owed that. Bulls---! They are not owed that." The rally attendees roared in approval.

This connection of crime and racial reparations was less a dog whistle, more a bull horn. As NAACP President Derrick Johnson put it in a statement on Monday: "Senator Tuberville’s comments are flat out racist, ignorant and utterly sickening. His words promote a centuries-old lie about Black people that throughout history have resulted in the most dangerous policies and violent attacks on our community."

Just as Democrats are sending a clear message that racism has no place in the party, the GOP is sending an equally clear message that they will tolerate -- and even cheer hate.

Numerous Democratic officials also denounced Tuberville’s remarks, such as Rep. Terri Sewell, the first Black woman elected to Congress from Alabama: “His words were painfully reminiscent of the racist tropes that have been used to vilify African Americans for generations.”

Meanwhile, many Republicans have chosen silence when asked about Tuberville’s comments.

On Sunday, Meet the Press host Kristen Welker asked Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., to react to Tuberville’s comments. Bacon at first responded, “I wouldn’t say it the same way.” When Welker pushed harder on whether he saw the remark as bigoted, Bacon responded: “I’m not going to say he’s being racist, but I wouldn’t use that language, be more polite.” To Bacon, racism is apparently OK when it’s more “polite.”

One Republican member actually defended Tuberville. Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, one of the two Black Republicans in the House, justified Tuberville’s racist comment by dishonestly claiming Black Lives Matter activists had made the same connection as Tuberville. Donalds even argued that since Tuberville had previously helped Black players as a football coach, that somehow made the remark OK.

Just as Democrats are sending a clear message that racism has no place in the party, the GOP is sending an equally clear message that they will tolerate — and even cheer hate. The takeaway is that while not all Republicans are racist, all racists feel comfortable in the Republican Party. And that must be by design. After all, if GOP leaders truly didn’t want racists in their midst, they could easily denounce the bigoted comments made by Republican officials. But they’d rather win at any cost — even if that includes embracing and defending the indefensible.