Ford admits to being bitter

Ford

COLUMBIA -- State Sen. Robert Ford said "Uncle Tom" is part of the reason he lost his bid for governor.

Ford, a black civil rights crusader who has served Charleston in the Senate since 1993, told The Post and Courier on Friday that his fellow Legislative Black Caucus members turned their backs on him and instead supported his white opponent, Vincent Sheheen.

"Uncle Tom was alive and well before, during and after the Negro and African-American struggle in this country, and obviously he is still alive today," Ford wrote in a June 10 letter addressed to his "beloved Legislative Black Caucus members."

Uncle Tom is a term used in contempt of blacks who are regarded as slaves to whites. It comes from the 1852 book "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Ford acknowledged that he is "bitter," but he said that does not change the situation. He accused Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, of not supporting diversity because, Ford said, Sheheen does not have any black men or women employed at his law office.

"The reason I am hurting right now is not because I lost," Ford said. "It's because they supported a candidate who doesn't practice diversity."

Sheheen's campaign on Friday had no comment on the letter or Ford's comments.

State Sen. Darrell Jackson, a Hopkins Democrat who is black, said Ford is wrong about Sheheen.

"Robert is one of my dearest friends," Jackson said. "He is absolutely wrong and off basis with this. And I think he knows that. I think right now Robert is hurt and he said he is bitter."

Jackson said Ford and Sheheen have chosen to share an office in the Senate office building. If Ford's claims about Sheheen were true, the two wouldn't share their workspace, Jackson said.

He also noted that Ford and Sheheen have a black administrative assistant. Sheheen also has selected a consulting firm run by a black man to work for his gubernatorial campaign, Jackson said. Also, Jackson said, Sheheen told him that he does not do the hiring at his law firm.

Jackson also said that every major piece of legislation that influences minorities in the state has Sheheen's support.

"It's not fair to Vincent," Jackson said. "I love Robert, but I really have to speak up."

Despite his hurt feelings, Ford said he "loves" Sheheen and believes he is a "good person."

"I am going to work like hell to see to it that he wins," Ford said.

Ford's accusations come as South Carolina grapples with another racially charged situation.

Sen. Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia, called GOP front-runner Nikki Haley a "raghead," a slur against her Indian-American decent. The Lexington Republican Party met Thursday night and voted to censure Knotts and ask him to resign.

Haley, a state representative from Lexington, faces U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff for the Republican gubernatorial nomination June 22.

Sheheen won the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday with 59 percent of the vote. Ford garnered 18 percent and ran on a controversial platform of bringing back video poker and building a casino in Myrtle Beach.

The third Democratic candidate, Jim Rex, state superintendent of education, took 23 percent of the vote.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or ywenger@postandcourier.com.