COLUMBIA - A top South Carolina Democrat criticized the state's comptroller general for what he called "uninformed, ignorant, and embarrassing" comments during a meeting Wednesday concerning emergency funding for the state's only public historically black college.
Republican Comptroller Richard Eckstrom, the state's top fiscal watchdog, said at a meeting of the Budget and Control Board that South Carolina State's status as a historically black college should not be the sole reason for the state's support. He added that there are no historically white colleges and that it should be supported "because it's a university."
He also said: "These are kids that are going there because they can't get into these other schools" such as Clemson and University of South Carolina. Those at the meeting, which was packed with S.C. State supporters, groaned loudly.
He added: "They can't afford it."
Eckstrom said that the school deserves support, though he disagreed with the loan because it does not solve the school's long-term issues and he is unsure whether the board has the authority to lend the money.
Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, the House minority leader, issued a statement later asking Eckstrom to apologize. "Richard Eckstrom should immediately apologize to the students and alumni of South Carolina State University for his uninformed, ignorant, and embarrassing statements earlier today," he said. "Those comments demonstrated a severe lack of understanding of our only public, historically black college in South Carolina."
Asked about the comments later, S.C. State president Thomas Elzey said he did not take offense. He told reporters that he thought Eckstrom was referring to the high number of students at S.C. State who must apply for significant financial aid to attend.
Eckstrom could not be reached for comment.
Eckstrom abstained on a vote of whether to loan the school $6 million. Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, voted against the funding. The three other members of the Budget and Control Board, which is composed of Gov. Nikki Haley and other key officials, voted for the funds, which school leaders say will help it stay afloat in the short term.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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