What better way to commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. than with inflammatory language?
On Sunday, Rev. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP, gave a sermon in Columbia, South Carolina where he targeted Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). He lit into Scott, the first African American senator from the South since Reconstruction, “a ventriloquist can always find a good dummy,” Barber said.
The civil rights activist went on to explain, as first reported by The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, “the extreme right wing down here finds a black guy to be senator and claims he’s the first black senator since Reconstruction and then he goes to Washington, D.C., and articulates the agenda of the Tea Party.” Barber has been a prominent leader in the “Moral Monday” movement in North Carolina, which has protested conservative legislation in that state, including restrictions on voting rights and cuts in government spending since Republicans took over the State House in Raleigh in 2012.
In an emailed statement to the conservative website, The Daily Caller, Scott brushed off the insult. “To reflect seriously on the comments a person, a pastor, that is filled with baseless and meaningless rhetoric would be to do a disservice to the very people who have sacrificed so much and paved a way” said Scott. “Instead, I will honor the memory of Dr. King by being proactive in holding the door for others and serving my fellow man.”
The statement is not likely to have much of an impact on Scott’s political fortunes. He’s an easy favorite in his 2014 election in South Carolina and the Tea Party Republican has never been in a favorite in the African American community. But Barber’s remarks serve as a reminder that over-the-top remarks on Martin Luther King Day are not just the preserve of one political party.