Sen. McConnell Awkwardly Walks Back Voting Rights Remark in Kentucky

Jan 21, 2022
5:42 PM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

On Friday, reporters staked out at the Kentuckians for Better Transportation annual event in Louisville asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to clarify controversial remarks he made at a press conference earlier in the week when asked by Latino Rebels about voting rights.

“The concern is misplaced,” McConnell had said on Wednesday, “because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

The remark sparked outrage and ridicule nationwide as the soundbite went viral, airing in cable news packages, late-night comedy shows, and internet memes.

The controversy coincides with failed attempt by House Democratic leadership to pass a rule change to advance the John R. Lewis Voting Advancement Act, named for the late Democratic congressman and a civil rights icon who served 17 terms in the House of Representatives.

“I want to take an opportunity out here to address the outrageous mischaracterization of my history on record on voting rights and race relations as a result of inadvertently leaving out the word ‘almost’ in my comments the other day,” McConnell told reporters back in his home state on Friday.

Asked to clarify, McConnell said three more times that he meant to say “almost” in his Friday remarks—as in, “African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as almost Americans.”

After exiting the stage, a woman noted to the Senator that he had said ‘almost’ was the word omitted. Laughing, McConnell returned to the stage and said: “The omitted word was ‘all’.”

Presumably as in, “African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as all Americans.’

“Look, I think America has been struggling for many years to get past its original sin,” said McConnell during his remarks to the Kentucky press. “Some people applaud the progress. For example, Sen. Tim Scott. You know his history.”

Scott, the junior senator from Georgia and the only Black Republican in the upper chamber, joined all 48 of his GOP colleagues in voting down the rule change that would have advanced the bill.

In a floor speech before the vote on Wednesday, Sen. Scott took issue with Democrats using the term “Jim Crow 2.0,” arguing in his floor speech that “the real Jim Crow” was much worse than the voter suppression laws his party has championed in the state legislatures they control across the country.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of two Black Senators in the Democratic caucus —Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia being the other— followed Scott with a floor speech citing statistics showing that in many states it takes considerably longer for Black and Latino voters to cast their ballots on Election Day than it does for white voters.

“I’m flabbergasted. This is hard,” Booker said in his speech. “When you look at the legislative record you see groups are being targeted in this country.”

“The vote is the bedrock of our nation, is the foundation of our country,” Booker added. “And it does have cracks that need our repair.”

On Wednesday night, the Senate voted 51 to 49 against limiting debate on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, thus killing the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) changed his vote from “Aye” to “No” so he could enter a motion to reconsider.


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports