COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s top Democrat is calling on elected Republicans to rescind their endorsements of Donald Trump, saying Wednesday that the presumptive GOP nominee is a racist and xenophobe, in part due to his race-based attacks on a Hispanic judge.
During a news conference, party Chairman Jaime Harrison said that, while he respects Republicans and their party, he doesn’t understand how officials including Gov. Nikki Haley can condemn Trump’s divisive rhetoric, yet say they still feel he’s the best choice to be president.
“To say these types of remarks, and then constantly defend them, is disqualifying for a presidential candidate, period,” Harrison said, adding that a President Trump would put the country “in peril.”
Trump has been in damage control mode amid the controversy over his stance that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel couldn’t preside fairly over a case involving Trump University because of what Trump called his Mexican heritage. Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to keep Mexican migrants from illegally crossing the border.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk has already taken back his endorsement of Trump, and House Speaker Paul Ryan called the comments “racist.”
One by one, Harrison on Wednesday called out more than half a dozen elected Republicans in South Carolina, some of whom have offered lukewarm endorsements of Trump as other GOP candidates left the race.
That list included Republican Tim Scott, the first black U.S. senator from the Deep South since Reconstruction. Scott, who previously supported Marco Rubio, has called Trump’s comments “racially toxic,” yet said he’ll still support the party’s nominee.
It also featured Haley, who has said she would back the eventual Republican nominee, which she hoped would be Rubio and then, after his departure, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
Last week, Haley said she wished Trump communicated differently because bad things result from divisive rhetoric, as evidenced by last June’s Charleston massacre. Haley said divisive speech motivated Dylann Roof to gun down nine black parishioners at historic Emanuel AME Church. Police have said the white 22-year-old charged with their killings wanted to start a race war.
Harrison said that only U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has out-and-out refused to support a candidate who Harrison said “plays footsie with the world’s worst regimes.”
Graham, who once compared choosing between Trump and Cruz to “being shot or poisoned,” has said he’ll support neither the billionaire businessman nor presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the general election. This week, Graham told The New York Times that Trump’s comments about Curiel represented “the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy.” He also added: “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it.”
Next to Harrison on Wednesday stood a party-produced placard featuring controversial comments from Trump on a variety of topics.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.