U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has apologized to black constituents in his state after he joined other Republican senators in calling for an audit of the 2020 presidential election ahead of the Jan. 6 certification of Electoral College votes.
Writing to residents in north Tulsa, the 52-year-old Lankford stated in a Thursday letter that his actions in contesting the election “caused a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state.”
“I was completely blindsided, but I also found a blind spot,” the lawmaker stated in his letter.
The former Baptist youth camp director was among the handful of senators to join Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, earlier this month to say he would vote against the Electoral College results unless a commission was formed to provide a 10-day audit exploring claims of voter fraud in several states.
Lankford retreated from that position after the U.S. Capitol was stormed by far-right protesters on Jan. 6.
“What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit,” he wrote.
“After decades of fighting for voting rights, many Black friends in Oklahoma saw this as a direct attack on their right to vote, for their vote to matter, and even a belief that their votes made an election in our country illegitimate.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who served under President Barack Obama for two terms from 2009-2017, is set to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. Kamala Harris, who served as U.S. senator from California, will serve as his vice president.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, where a white mob killed dozens of black residents on June 1, 1921.
The massacre has been called "the single worst incident of racial violence in American history."
The attack, which was carried out both on the ground and from private aircraft, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the Greenwood district. The district was the wealthiest black community in the U.S. at the time and was known as "Black Wall Street."
As a result of Lankford's support of Cruz's call for an election audit, black leaders in Tulsa called on Lankford to be removed from the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Committee, according to Tulsa World.
“I can assure you, my intent to give a voice to Oklahomans who had questions was never also an intent to diminish the voice of any Black American. I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you,” Lankford concluded in his letter. “I deeply regret my blindness to that perception, and for that I am sorry.”
Lankford explained his reasoning for joining the call for an election audit.
"When I announced my support for an Electoral Commission to spend 10 days auditing the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, it was never my intention to disenfranchise any voter or state. It was my intention to resolve any outstanding questions before the inauguration on January 20,” he stressed.
"I believe Congress cannot legally ignore any state's electors or change any state's vote, but we can work to get answers to outstanding questions. I want to strengthen the confidence all Americans have in their electoral system so everyone is encouraged to vote and knows their vote matters."