U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said Thursday that his personal experiences with racism compelled him this week to speak out against President Donald Trump's response to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
"My memories of the stain of racism, and the indignities that some people can cast upon others, is a part of who I am," Scott said in an interview with "Vice News Tonight" on HBO. "My response should be very pointed and very clear because of my history, my personal history."
For that reason, Scott said, he was unafraid that his criticism of the president would alienate him from the electoral base that voted Trump into office.
"Each of us have had different experiences," Scott said during the interview, which was taped in Charleston at Scott's invitation. "I remember being called everything in the book from a racial perspective."
So when Scott saw scenes out of Charlottesville showing white supremacists holding torches and chanting, it was personal.
"It was a stark reminder of where the country has been and a place where we don’t need to go back to. The imagery of the whole scene was devastating to a lot of people," Scott said.
Trump's initial comments Saturday about the racist rally in Charlottesville, Scott continued, did not help.
"The initial response of rejecting hatred, and bigotry and racism was a good response, but it was not good enough," Scott said of Trump's Saturday comments. "Monday, he obviously came to the same conclusion and decided to clarify his comments."
But then Tuesday came, and Trump reaffirmed his initial stance that there is "blame on both sides" for the deadly rally in Charlottesville.
"What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority, and that authority is compromised when Tuesday happens. There’s no question about that," Scott said.
Scott was then asked whether the president still has moral authority after his dramatic change on Charlottesville.
"I think he has it," Scott said, but then added, "He's losing it."
Scott continued by saying Trump still has moral authority, because it was given to him when the American people elected him to office.
"The problem is that in this situation, in the last three or four days, what we’ve seen is that moral authority being compromised by the lack of clarity, by what we have seen as the pivot backwards, which is very unsettling for many Americans, to include me," Scott said.
When Scott was sworn into the Senate in 2013, he became the first black senator to represent South Carolina since Reconstruction. He is currently the senate's only black Republican.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vowed that he would "do more for the African-American people in one year than Barack Obama has done in his seven years, soon to be eight years."
Scott said that since Saturday he has heard from many African-Americans who are concerned.
"I can’t articulate the devastation in the voices that I heard," he said.
But Scott said there is a marked difference in how Americans are responding to the racial issues that surfaced in Charlottesville.
"Fifty years ago, when this country found itself in racial unrest, there was silence," Scott said. "Racism is real. It is alive. It is here. But the response from the vast majority of this country is diametrically opposite of the response in the '60s."
Despite Trump's comments, Scott said he will continue to work with the president, citing tax reform and health care as key policies.
"I’m going to work with him wherever we are in agreement. I’m going to speak out against him when we are not in agreement, and that’s the bottom line."