Trump botches meeting on race with black Republican senator

The White House got Tim Scott's name wrong after the senator met the president. That describes a lot

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published September 14, 2017 1:16PM (EDT)

Tim Scott talks about his plan to meet with Donald Trump to discuss race. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Tim Scott talks about his plan to meet with Donald Trump to discuss race. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump met with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican serving in the upper chamber, to have a candid discussion about race relations in America. What happened should not shock anyone.

Let's start with what happened after the meeting, when the White House misidentified him in a photograph as "Tom Scott." Later, during a press conference, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Scott had not expressed any displeasure with the president's reaction to Charlottesville and had merely talked about "what we can do to bring people together, not talk about divisions within the country."

Sanders left out a few details.

According to Scott, Trump "tried to explain what he was trying to convey" during his controversial remarks in the aftermath of the Charlottesville riots — why he said there were bad people "on both sides." The senator claimed that he tried to explain to the president that while it was technically true that "there was an antagonist on the other side," the more important problem was "the affirmation of hate groups who over three centuries of this country’s history have made it their mission to create upheaval in minority communities as their reason for existence," according to the New York Times.

Scott added, "So there’s no way to find an equilibrium when you have three centuries of history versus the situation that is occurring today."

According to the senator, Trump seemed to understand his positions and ended their get-together by suggesting that they stay in touch.

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville riots, Scott wrote an editorial for USA Today unequivocally blaming the white supremacists. He also refused to support Trump's position on the matter, saying that he could not "defend the indefensible."

Last year, Scott took to the Senate floor and discussed occasions in which he had been questioned by police because of his race. Before describing several occasions in which he had personally been racially profiled, he explained that "there’s a deep divide between the black community and law enforcement — a trust gap."

Before 2016, though, Scott had a somewhat more complicated history when it came to race relations. In 2015 he aroused controversy when he defended the use of the phrase "All Lives Matter" by telling CNN that "if it causes offense that I say that 'all lives matter' — black lives, white lives, police officers, jurists, all of us, even politicians, all of our lives matter — if that is somehow offensive to someone, that's their issue, not mine."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Charlottesville Donald Trump Racism Tim Scott