WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville claimed Democrats support reparations for the descendants of enslaved people because “they think the people who commit the crime are accountable for it.”
The first-term Republican from Alabama spoke at a Saturday night rally in Nevada with former President Donald Trump, a political ally. His comments were part of a broader criticism in the final weeks before the Nov. 8 election, when congressional scrutiny is at stake, of how Democrats have responded to rising crime rates. But Tuberville’s remarks about reparations played into racist stereotypes about black people committing crimes.
“They’re not soft on crime,” Tuberville said of Democrats. “They are pro-crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take what you have. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because they think the people who commit the crime are responsible for it.
He ended his appearance with a profanity to the cheers of the crowd.
Tuberville incorrectly suggests that Democrats promote crime and only black people are the perpetrators. In fact, crime has slowed over the past year and most crimes are committed by white people, according to FBI data.
The Democratic Party has not taken a position on reparations for black Americans to compensate for their ancestors’ years of forced unpaid labor, although some leading Democrats, including President Joe Biden, support the creation of a commission national to study the issue.
Some Republicans struggled on Sunday to defend Tuberville’s comments.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said he “wouldn’t say it the same way,” describing the remarks as rude.
“That’s not the way I present it,” Bacon said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But we have to be honest, we have a crime problem in our country.”
WATCH: After controversial remarks by Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R) at a Trump rally, @kwelkernbc asks, “Do his comments cross a racial line?”@RepDonBacon“Yeah, that’s not how I would put it. … I wouldn’t use that language. Be more polite. pic.twitter.com/kX4jAlCZFk
– Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 9, 2022
There was no immediate response from the Tuberville office on Sunday to a request for comment.
Republicans have attempted to close out this election year with a focus on crime, using rhetoric that is sometimes alarmist or of dubious veracity, similar to Trump’s argument in the 2020 campaign that run cities by the Democrats were out of control.
FBI data released last week showed that violent and property crime generally remained constant between 2020 and 2021, with a slight decrease in the overall violent crime rate and a 4.3% increase in the murder rate. That’s an improvement from 2020, when the US murder rate jumped 29%.
The report presents an incomplete picture, in part because it does not include some of the nation’s largest police departments.
More broadly, violent crime and murder rates have risen in the United States since the pandemic, in some places reaching peaks after hitting historic lows. Non-violent crime has declined during the pandemic, but the murder rate has increased nearly 30% in 2020, increasing in both cities and rural areas, according to an analysis of crime data by the Brennan Center for Justice. The rate of assaults increased by 10%, according to the analysis.
The rise defies easy explanation. Experts have pointed to a number of potential causes, ranging from worries about the economy and historically high inflation rates to intense stress during the pandemic that has killed more than a million people in the United States.