Racist threats, messages on rise against black US senator behind police reform efforts

Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin calls Republican Sen. Tim Scott's legislation a 'token'

Sen. Tim Scott speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa Aug. 9, 2014.
Sen. Tim Scott speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa Aug. 9, 2014. | (Photo: Reuters/Brian Frank)

Racially-charged threats are reportedly mounting against a black U.S. senator amid heightened political tensions nationwide over race issues and policing.

According to CNN, during a policy lunch on Tuesday, Senator Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, played two of voicemail messages he has been receiving lately.

One of the callers referred to Scott as "Uncle Tim," — a spin off the racist slur "Uncle Tom" — and accused him of being a "sellout" and "the lowest piece of sh*t this country ever produced."

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Another caller said: "Tim Scott, my crosshairs on my rifle are going to be pointed right at your forehead and blow your black (inaudible) dumba** away."

Yet another caller spoke of the "stimulus package" and the "KKK" and said the South Carolina senator was "going to die" since people from the South "just don't like blacks."

Scott was also at the receiving end of attacks from Democrats in the Senate, one of whom referred to his police reform bill, which he has been working on for five years, as a "token."

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called the Republican-backed proposal a "token, half-hearted approach."

"To call this a token process hurts my soul for my country, for our people," Scott said.

Scott spokesperson Sean Smith said the senator's office has been receiving more threats in light of Scott's increased visibility on specific issues.

"Most don't mention any legislation, but it's clear they're related to police reform," Smith said of the hostility directed toward Scott in messages.

"The volume has increased greatly the past two weeks since it became known he was leading police reform efforts."

Earlier this week, Senate Democrats blocked the police reform bill spearheaded by Scott with a procedural vote, a move he said was cynical and represented "pure race politics at its worst." The senator noted that the recent threatening phone calls were not affecting him much and that he is comfortable with the security measures he has in place.

"I think 2015 and the [Charleston] church shooting had more impact on me than the failure of this legislation. What is frustrating to me and what makes me emotional is not the toll that it has on me — I'm a pretty resilient guy, and I'm going to be great tomorrow and the next day and next day. It's those people that we're talking about that we almost make caricatures of them. That's the toll. Toll's not on me. Toll's on communities that continue to see, like, they are walking in quicksand," Scott said.

Scott, a native of North Charleston, has served in the U.S. Senate since 2013, when he was appointed by then-governor Nikki Haley. He retained his seat in a subsequent special election in 2014 and was then reelected for a full six-year term in 2016. He previously served as a U.S. Congressman and in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at guiding police reforms after weeks of turmoil in cities around the country inspired in part by the police-involved killing of unarmed black Americans, specifically George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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