Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana made a controversial statement about the minorities on his staff during a Tuesday night debate, reports The Washington Post.
When Donnelly was asked how he would bring diversity into his staffing, he responded, “Our state director is Indian American, but he does an amazing job. Our director of all constituent services, she’s African American, but she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine.”
But what, exactly? The inclusion of the word “but” seems to suggest that these people are doing well despite their ethnicities.
“It isn’t their race or their religion, it’s the incredible person that they are. But at the same time, they have to have a chance,” he continued. “They have to have an opportunity, and that’s my responsibility. And I’ve done it in every office I’ve had, and I’ve done it in every campaign I’ve had, because my campaigns and our Senate office should reflect the face of Indiana.”
Democratic Senator @JoeforIndiana (who is up for re-election):
“…Our state director is Indian-American, but he does an amazing job. Our director for all constituent services, she’s African-American, but she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine…” pic.twitter.com/WOqP79HIIL
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) October 31, 2018
“I misspoke,” Donnelly said in a statement Wednesday, according to CNN. “I meant to say ‘and’ instead of ‘but.’ That would have communicated what I have tried to do my entire life: that I make a habit to seek out and promote people of color for both my campaign and official staff.”
Republicans, such as Josh Holmes, a top political adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, were quick to point out his word choice.
— Josh Holmes (@HolmesJosh) October 31, 2018
Politico reports that Donald Trump Jr. called Donnelly’s comment “thinly veiled racism.”
In addition, Democrats were not happy that Donnelly suggested during the debate that he was open to Trump’s calls for an end to birthright citizenship, as he responded to the possibility by saying, “We have to look at this legislation.”
This also isn’t the first time these types of awkward comments have been made about Indian Americans by politicians. Joe Biden received backlash for a comment he made in an attempt to connect to an Indian American voter in 2006. “In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India,” said then-Sen. Biden. “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”
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