When Donald Trump entered the 2016 presidential race, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he was “disgusted” by Trump’s rhetoric and called the then-candidate a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.”
“He doesn’t represent my party,” Graham said at the time.
But that version of Linsey Graham perished long ago, replaced by a sycophantic stooge willing to praise and defend Trump at all costs. In the process, Graham has shown himself to be no less a bigot than the president.
The Guardian reported in October that the South Carolina Republican said during a televised campaign event that Black people can “go anywhere” in politics in his state, but they “just need to be conservative.”
Graham made the comment in a televised “conversation” with his political rival, former South Carolina Democratic party chair Jaime Harrison, the first African American to serve in the role.
He made the remark in the context of political careers, and said Harrison would lose because he is a Democrat, not because he is Black.
“Do I believe our cops are systemically racist? No. Do I believe South Carolina is a racist state? No. Let me tell you why. To young people out there, young people of color, young immigrants, this is a great state, but one thing I can say without any doubt, you can be an African American and go to the Senate but you just have to share our values.”
Graham concluded: “If you’re a young, African American or an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative, not liberal.”
But Graham wasn’t finished. Following the November election, which saw him retain his Senate seat, the Republican jumped on board Trump’s baseless claim of widespread voter fraud. Even worse, Graham reportedly attempted to personally intervene in Georgia’s election in an apparent effort to get ballots thrown out to help secure a Trump win.
Richard Painter, former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush; Claire O. Finkelstein, faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania; and former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub filed an official complaint over the matter.
Painter and Finkelstein wrote in a piece for NBC News:
The complaint centers on a phone call Graham placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to propose that Raffensperger invalidate thousands of mail-in ballots. According to The Washington Post, Graham “asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures,” which would have included ballots legally cast by eligible voters. In a subsequent interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Raffensperger explained that he took the senator’s message to mean “look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.”
Graham denies this account and maintains he was merely inquiring into the standards for mail-in ballots. His denial is not plausible. CNN reported that a staffer for Raffensberger, Gabriel Sterling, said “he participated in a controversial phone call with Sen. Lindsey Graham and claimed he heard Graham ask if state officials could throw out ballots.” Sterling and his family have received death threats and are now under 24-hour police protection.
Graham did not succeed in his efforts, but he made plain his willingness to disregard the will of the people and the country’s democratic processes in order to install a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” as the country’s dictator.