Sen. Lindsey Graham, who went from being a vehement critic of Donald Trump in 2016 to being a devoted Trump supporter, seldom disagrees with anything the president has to say. But the South Carolina Republican is parting company with Trump over his recent attack on NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace.
Trump is demanding that Wallace, who is African-American, apologize after speaking out about a hangman-style noose found in his NASCAR garage. An investigation showed that the noose had been in the facility long before Wallace starting using it — but that doesn't make Wallace's concerns about racism any less valid.
Trump, however, tweeted, "Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!"
But when Graham was interviewed by far-right media figure Brian Kilmeade for Fox News Radio, he asserted, "I don't think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for. I do say this about the drivers — even though it was a noose created to hold the door open — in the times in which we live, there's a lot of anxiety. So what did you see? You saw the best in NASCAR. When there was a chance that it was a threat against Bubba Wallace, they all rallied to Bubba's side. So, I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried about it being a hoax."
During that interview, the South Carolina senator applauded NASCAR for its recent decision to ban Confederate flags from its races.
Graham told Kilmeade — who co-hosts Fox News' "Fox and Friends" in addition to his work at Fox News Radio — "NASCAR made a decision to ban the Confederate flag inside the infield and NASCAR arenas. They're trying to grow the sport. I've lived in South Carolina all my life, and if you're in business, the Confederate flag is not a good way to grow your business. The idea that Bubba Wallace — who is, I think, the only African-American driver — was upset by somebody finding a noose in the garage made perfect sense to me. So, what I would tell people from outside of South Carolina that NASCAR is trying to grow the sport — and one way you grow the sport is you take images that divide us and ask that they not be brought into the venue. That makes sense to me."
Graham is among the incumbent GOP senators who is up for reelection this year, and Jaime Harrison (an African-American Democrat) is hoping to unseat him. Harrison is fighting an uphill battle, as South Carolina is a much redder state than its neighbor, North Carolina — which has evolved into a swing state. Yet some polls have found the race to be surprisingly close.