Clyburn: Sanford's Zimbabwe comment "very troubling"

The House majority whip tells Salon his state's governor was "playing the race card" with his remarks about the stimulus.

Published March 12, 2009 9:30PM (EDT)

Two of South Carolina's most prominent politicians, Republican Gov. Mark Sanford and House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a Democrat, have been facing off recently over the stimulus package and Sanford's opposition to it, and there's clearly no love lost beween the two men.

That was as true as ever on Thursday, when Sanford's comparison of the stimulus to Zimbabwe came to light. In an interview with Salon, Clyburn said he was perplexed, and troubled, by Sanford's comments and by the potential implications.

"Sounds like he's playing the race card," Clyburn said. "[W]hy would he compare this country to Zimbabwe? Is he comparing this president to Mugabe? What is this about? It's very strange to me."

The congressman also called Sanford's remarks "beyond the pale," saying, "It is very, very troubling to me that he would do this, especially when the policies that we've been dealing with or trying to deal with were all compounded under the previous administration, which he supported."

Clyburn had made similar comments in a previous interview with Politico, prompting Joel Sawyer, a Sanford spokesman, to retort, "Rep. Clyburn always plays the race card." Sawyer said the governor was referring to rampant inflation in Zimbabwe.

Asked about Sawyer's response, Clyburn shrugged it off. "That's the way Sanford's office always operates," he said. "He brings up Zimbabwe, I say it's beyond the pale, he says I'm playing the race card. Who brought up Zimbabwe? I hope you folks are getting a real measure of Mark Sanford."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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