COLUMBIA — A Republican state representative from Florence said he was taken out of context when he was quoted in January as telling a group of doctors at the Statehouse that “it is good politics to oppose the black guy in the White House.”
Rep. Kris Crawford was quoted in the Charleston Regional Business Journal in a Jan. 29 story about doctors’ efforts to persuade lawmakers to expand Medicaid in South Carolina under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.”
The publication reported that Crawford told the group of about 75 doctors that the possible merits of the expansion wouldn’t control whether lawmakers would decide whether to accept the expansion or not, which was made optional for states by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.
“The politics are going to overwhelm the policy. It is good politics to oppose the black guy in the White House right now, especially for the Republican Party,” Crawford said, according to the Business Journal. Crawford’s remarks didn’t draw attention until this week, when he and all other S.C. House Republicans voted down Democrats’ attempts to expand Medicaid under the federal health law through amendments to the state budget.
Some Democrats have ripped Crawford after the votes this week, and his reported comments have made national news.
Crawford, an emergency room doctor, said Thursday that his comments were not presented in context.
He said the remarks were “a little flip” but meant to refer back to comments he had made earlier in the forum with doctors about “the black and white nature of the political debate” surrounding Medicaid expansion.
Among the offenders is Gov. Nikki Haley, who has rejected expansion “as a way to just say ‘no’ to President Barack Obama’s administration,” he said. “I think you have to have a bigger conversation than just saying ‘no.’ ”
Although the Business Journal reported that he urged the doctors to advocate for expanding Medicaid through the state budget, Crawford said he said no such thing and has never supported expanding the federal-state program for the needy through the budget.
He said Thursday that he’ll be working with Democrats to introduce a bill in the coming weeks dealing with expansion that he can support.
Andy Owens, managing editor of the Business Journal, said in an email Thursday that the publication stands by its story and that Crawford was not misquoted or mischaracterized.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey wrote in a statement that Crawford’s “ignorant comment in no way represents the people of South Carolina — and it’s a shame that the views of a few end up damaging the image of our state as a whole.”
Haley’s administration in recent months has rolled out other initiatives aimed at improving residents’ health, saying simply adding more people to Medicaid under the expansion, which she opposes, won’t guarantee better outcomes. Haley also has said the state can’t afford the long-term cost of an expansion.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said Crawford was “telling the truth” with his reported comments on the politics of Medicaid expansion. “I don’t know that there’s any other way to look at it,” Rutherford said. “He was describing the political zeitgeist if you will.”
Jason Zacher, spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment on Crawford’s January remarks.