Washington — Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama is coming under criticism for racially-charged comments he made this weekend claiming Democrats are "pro-crime" and favor reparations for the descendants of people who were enslaved in the U.S. because they believe "the people that do the crime are owed that."
Tuberville, a first-term senator, made the controversial remarks during a rally held by former President Donald Trump in Minden, Nevada, on Saturday in support of the state's Republican candidates on the ballot in November.
"They're not soft on crime. They're pro-crime. They want crime," Tuberville said of Democrats. "They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that. Bulls**t. They are not owed that."
Republicans are jockeying to regain control of the House and Senate from Democrats in the November midterm elections and have been attempting to paint Democrats as soft-on-crime in their pitch to voters.
The FBI said last week that violent crime decreased by 1% in the U.S. in 2021, and the robbery rate fell 8.9% from 2020 to 2021. The murder rate in the U.S. rose by 4.3%,, though that is significantly lower than the 29.4% increase in the murder rate from 2019 to 2020. The bureau warned nearly half of law enforcement agencies did not submit data in 2021, resulting in an incomplete picture and gaps in coverage.
FBI data released in December, meanwhile, found that more than half of known offenders, 50.8% were White, and 29.6% were Black or African-American.
Tuberville's comments were swiftly met with criticism.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson called Tuberville's claims "flat out racist, ignorant and utterly sickening."
"His words promote a centuries-old lie about Black people that throughout history have resulted in the most dangerous policies and violent attacks on our community," Johnson said in a statement. "We've seen this before from the far-right, and we've seen what they can do when they take power. Next time the senator wants to talk about crime, he should talk about Donald Trump's hate-fueled rally on January 6, 2021, and the attacks that followed. Perhaps the real criminals are in his orbit."
Rep. Mondaire Jones, a Democrat from New York, referenced Tuberville in a tweet about Kanye West, whose Twitter and Instagram accounts wereafter he made antisemitic posts.
"This defense of Kanye's blatant anti-Semitism from the Indiana Attorney General, which follows deeply white supremacist comments from other high-ranking Republican officials like Senator Tommy Tuberville in recent days, tells you everything you need to know about the GOP in 2022," Jones tweeted Sunday.
The Rev. Al Sharpton told MSNBC on Monday that Tuberville's comments are "factually off" and people in Alabama "ought to be offended."
Asked to respond to Tuberville's comments, Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he would "be more polite" and it's "not the way I present things."
"I wouldn't say it the same way," he said, adding there is a "problem in our country with crime."
The Democratic Party does not support reparations for African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved, but the topic arose during the 2020 presidential campaign. Nearly all Democrats running for the party's presidential nomination, including President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, supported studying the issue.
A bill introduced in the House by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas to create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals has broad support from her fellow Democrats in the lower chamber and was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in April 2021 with backing from its 25 Democratic members. The committee's Republican members opposed the legislation.