Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on police reform blew up when Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) took offense at remarks made by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) about race, asking the Black congressman “who the hell” he thought he was.
Debating the Democratic-backed Justice in Policing Act on Wednesday afternoon, Richmond began his remarks by noting that lawmakers of different parties tend to call each other “good friends” before noting that this may not be the case when he’s done.
“By the time I'm finished, you will be clear that we are not good friends," he added sharply.
Taking issue with GOP members introducing extraneous issues and amendments, such as items addressing the leftist movement antifa—one of conservatives’ current favorite bugaboos—Richmond declared, “You all are white men who have never lived in my shoes and you do not know what it is like to be an African-American male!”
“This is a crisis. People are losing their lives. So if we want to fix—fix it in another bill or at another time,” he continued. “People are dying as we talk. I am not interested in moving at a snail's pace. I’m not interested in a watered-down bill that mandates nothing.”
Richmond went on to say he wanted to give his Republican colleagues the benefit of the doubt that they were practicing “unconscious bias” with their treatment of the bill, but felt that “at worst, it is conscious bias.”
Gaetz, meanwhile, jumped into the fray, saying that while he appreciated Richmond’s passion he wanted to know if the Louisiana lawmaker was suggesting that the GOP congressmen didn’t have any non-white children.
“Matt, I am not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children,” an indignant Richmond fired back. “I reclaim my time!”
The Democrat noted that he was aware that there are GOP congressmen who have Black grandchildren before pointing out that “it is not about the color of your kids” but instead about “Black males, Black people in the streets getting killed.”
“And if one of them happens to be your kid, I'm concerned about him too, and clearly I'm more concerned about him than you are," Richmond added, causing Gaetz to become irate. (Gaetz is not married and has no children.)
"You’re claiming you have more concern about my family than I do,” the pro-Trump congressman shouted. “Who in the hell do you think you are?”
Richmond, for his part, remained calm, needling Gaetz as the Florida Republican raged and demanded Richmond’s words be stricken from the record.
“If the shoe fits,” Richmond quipped. “A kicked dog hollers.”
After Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) called on Gaetz to cease, Richmond coolly asked Gaetz, “Was that a nerve?”
“You’re damn right it was a nerve,” the conservative congressman snapped back.