The chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party on Friday accused U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, the upper chamber's only black Republican, of being "horrifyingly quiet" after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, even though Scott was quick to call for the arrest of the officers involved.
"Where is our Sen. Tim Scott when the nation and South Carolina need him more than ever?" state Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson asked in a media statement.
"The voters of South Carolina demand an answer, why he refuses to speak up about the issues facing people of color, namely police brutality," he added.
The note listed other such victims as Walter Scott's killing in North Charleston, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.
But Scott did not refuse to speak out. Scott turned to Twitter to amplify his concerns, a platform where he has more than 419,000 followers. He did not post the message to his Facebook page.
"Firing the officers that killed #GeorgeFloyd was the right first move. The second? Arrest them," Scott wrote just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, a day after Floyd's death as news of the killing began to go national.
He used the hashtag #icantbreathe, a reference to the words Floyd could be heard saying as a Minneapolis officer pressed a knee into his neck for some five minutes. Video of the arrest surfaced in the aftermath, creating a wave of violence in Minnesota and elsewhere in the U.S.
Scott's call for the arrest of the officers came hours after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the firing of all four officers who had been on the scene when Floyd died.
Scott has done it before. He gave a series of impassioned speeches on the Senate floor in 2016, including one where he talked about being stopped by police officers seven times in one year because of the color of his skin. He also acted as an arbitrator on race relations under the Trump administration when he rebuked the president's equivocating comments after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Scott's office took Robertson to task in a statement late Friday, saying the S.C. Democratic Party has been failing in addressing the needs of minorities.
"Remember the last time Trav Robertson and the SCDP achieved anything to help people of color in South Carolina?" said Scott's spokeswoman Janae Frazier-Bowens. "Me neither. Maybe they haven’t heard about what Sen. Scott has done because they are yet again ignoring the voices of black South Carolinians."
She listed times Scott has spoken out on similar killings of unarmed blacks at the hands of police, among other minority-targeted legislation Scott is behind.
"While Trav tries to conjure magical spells to make Tim Scott disappear, Sen. Scott keeps putting forward solutions," she said, pointing to Scott's Walter Scott Notification Act which, if passed, would require states to report on all officer-related shootings.
"The SCDP should immediately apologize for this slanderous, soulless, flatout lie, and start actually caring about people instead of their failed policies for once," Frazier-Bowens said.
The Democrats, however, said they expected more from Scott.
"For someone who presents themselves as Trump’s 'trusted advisor on Black issues,' Scott’s silence sends a stark signal to his constituents, both Black and White, who are fed up with police overreach resulting in extrajudicial killings," Robertson said in the statement.
Reached for additional comment Friday evening, Robertson stood by his words.
Robertson said it isn't enough for Scott to send a tweet when he is a Republican leader with real power to affect change and help facilitate a difficult dialogue about race relations and policing in America.
"I can't believe that the only African American Republican senator in the United States Congress has not stood up and corrected Donald Trump and explained why he shouldn't be using that type of language that is attributed to George Wallace," Robertson said referencing Trump's tweet that stated, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."
Robertson also said he believes that if Scott held a press conference and asked his fellow South Carolina Republican lawmakers to stand together, black and white, to say enough is enough, there could be change advanced.
"The world would listen," Robertson said. "Our job as citizens of this state is to make sure that our elected representatives in the United States Congress stand up when the moments call them to do so," Robertson said.
Robertson said he did not take sending the press release lightly.
When asked why this responsibility should fall so heavily on Scott's shoulders, Robertson said that's just "the burden he bears" as the only African American Republican in the U.S. Senate.
"And if he's tired of the responsibility, then he needs to get out of the Senate," Robertson said.
Scott is scheduled to appear on "Fox News Sunday," on the topic of the Floyd shooting this Sunday, his office said.