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Tuberville’s talking points on crime move in a racist direction

Tommy Tuberville sometimes generates headlines by saying something foolish. At a Trump rally, however, he made headlines by saying something racist.


Ordinarily, when Sen. Tommy Tuberville generates national headlines, it’s because he’s said something foolish about subjects he really ought to know. Shortly after getting elected nearly two years ago, for example, the Alabama Republican flubbed the basics of World War II. The former college football coach also struggled with how recent presidential elections have been resolved.

A few months later, he misstated the three branches of the United States government. Earlier this year, Tuberville made the case that Russia invaded Ukraine in order to acquire “more farmland,” which really didn’t make any sense.

But in each of these instances, the GOP senator’s rhetoric made him appear foolish, not sinister. As the Associated Press reported, the Alabaman’s message took a toxic turn at a rally over the weekend.

Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville asserted that Democrats support reparations for the descendants of enslaved people because “they think the people that do the crime are owed that.” ... Tuberville’s remarks about reparations played into racist stereotypes about Black people committing crimes.

The Republican spoke in Nevada, helping warm up a crowd at a rally ahead of Donald Trump’s appearance. The senator focused on crime — a standard part of the GOP’s pitch ahead of this year’s midterm elections — but decided to throw in some related thoughts about reparations.

“They’re not soft on crime,” Tuberville said of Democrats. “They’re pro-crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that.”

At face value, the idea that a major political party actually “wants” crime is not the sort of rhetoric Americans generally hear from sensible elected officials, but it was Tuberville’s comments about reparations that took his remarks in a racist direction.

The AP report added, “Tuberville is falsely suggesting that Democrats promote crime and that only Blacks are the perpetrators. In fact, crime has slowed in the last year and most crimes are committed by whites, according to FBI data.”

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, NBC News’ Kristen Welker asked Republican Rep. Don Bacon whether Tuberville’s comments crossed “a racial line.” The Nebraska congressman hedged.

“I’m not going to say he’s being racist,” Bacon said. “But I wouldn’t use that language. Be more polite.”

Ten days ago, Trump used racist rhetoric against former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and nearly all Republican officials responded with silence. Then Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene reemphasized her support for the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, and again, the GOP had nothing to say.

It was against this backdrop that Tuberville’s talking points on crime veered in a racist direction, and the most the party could offer was one congressman urging the Alabaman to be more “polite.”

Republican leaders sometimes wonder aloud why they struggle with outreach to minority communities. There’s no great mystery here.