U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger apologized Thursday after saying the violence in Charlotte stems from protesters who “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”
Pittenger is a Republican whose district includes parts of the city where protests have turned violent in the wake of a police shooting of a black man.
He made the statement on a BBC-TV news program Thursday when asked to describe the “grievance” of the protesters.
“The grievance in their minds – the animus, the anger – they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not,” Pittenger said. He then criticized people who receive welfare. “It is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, and we’ve put people in bondage, so they can’t be all they’re capable of being.”
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He later apologized on Twitter, saying his answer “doesn't reflect who I am. I was quoting statements made by angry protesters last night on national TV. My intent was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African Americans because of failed policies.”
Watch the video of Pittenger’s comments below:
Within hours of the interview being posted, Pittenger issued an apology for the comment and said he was simply quoting protesters who’d appeared on TV.
“What is taking place in my hometown right now breaks my heart,” he said in a statement issued by his congressional office. “My anguish led me to respond to a reporter’s question in a way that I regret. The answer doesn’t reflect who I am. I was quoting statements made by angry protesters last night on national TV. My intent was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African Americans because of failed policies. I apologize to those I offended and hope that we can bring peace and calm to Charlotte.”
Still, Pittenger’s statement was quickly denounced by many on social media, including two state legislators:
The N.C. Democratic Party called Pittenger’s comments “racist.”
“These comments are inexcusable,” executive director Kimberly Reynolds said in a news release. “At a time when we need calm and understanding while we learn more about the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Congressman Pittenger is fanning the flames of hate with his racist rhetoric. This sort of bigotry has become all to common under the party of Donald Trump. Our great state should not be represented by someone who would make such hateful comments.
“Congressmen Pittenger must apologize, and Governor McCrory and every Republican leader in this state should denounce this hateful rhetoric immediately.”
The N.C. Republican Party did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Pittenger’s remarks. Earlier in the day, NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse issued a news release blaming NAACP leader William Barber for “encouraging violence” when he demanded the release of police videos showing the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
“We are highly concerned that William Barbers (sic) demand for the police video to be released ‘by nightfall’ is a threat to citizens in Charlotte,” Woodhouse wrote. “The statement appears to be encouraging violence, if Barber’s unreasonable demands are not met.”