GOP senator claims he 'did not realize' throwing out Black votes was racist

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Sen. James Lankford apologized to his Black constituents in a letter for having a 'blind spot.'

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) acknowledged Thursday that his attempts to overturn the 2020 election were hurtful to his Black constituents — but claimed he had no idea that Donald Trump's false claim of widespread fraud in predominantly Black communities was racist.

In a letter to his "friends in North Tulsa," Lankford wrote, "My action of asking for more election information 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."

He added that, at the time, he supposedly "did not realize" that "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."

His semi-apology comes as Black Oklahoma leaders have urged his removal or resignation from a commission memorializing the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 1921 Race Massacre.

In the weeks before last Wednesday's Capitol insurrection, Lankford repeatedly amplified Trump's lies that there were widespread irregularities in the 2020 election and backed an effort to reject President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College win.

"My Democrat colleagues were focused on fixing potential problems from 2016 yet in 2020 when we have actual problems they tell us to move along," he complained in December. "We know there are real problems with fraud in our elections, we should fix it."

Bipartisan election officials have agreed that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 elections. Trump's own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director signed a statement in November affirming that there was "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." Trump fired him shortly after.

Lankford was unmoved by those facts, preferring to listen to his misinformed constituents who believed Trump's bogus claims that he was the real victor "by a lot."

In a Jan. 5 opinion piece, Lankford wrote that "a majority of the people who have contacted me just want to know what happened and how we fix this for the future. I would hope that everyone agrees we should ask, 'How does this not happen again?'"

Lankford demanded a commission be appointed to investigate whether Trump really won and said that if Congress would not create one, he would vote to reject some of Biden's electors.

After some outlets reported that Lankford had changed his mind and decided to accept the election results, Lankford tweeted Jan. 6 that this was false. "I did not change my mind. Reports otherwise are not true. If my colleagues will not agree to hear the concerns of millions of Americans, I am still prepared to oppose some of the electors today."

After deadly attacks on the Capitol during the certification process, Lankford ultimately withdrew his objections, voting to certify the results that night.

While Lankford now suggests he had no idea that Trump's effort to throw out the results in swing states that he lost was racist, a simple review of Trump's now-suspended Twitter account casts doubt on this argument.

Trump explicitly claimed that the supposed fraud took place in urban areas, naming Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, and other cities with large Black populations.

"In Detroit, there are FAR MORE VOTES THAN PEOPLE. Nothing can be done to cure that giant scam. I win Michigan!" he claimed on Nov. 18.

“Everybody knows that dead people, below age people, illegal immigrants, fake signatures, prisoners and many others voted illegally," he tweeted on Dec. 13. "Also, machine 'glitches' (another word for FRAUD), ballot harvesting, non-resident voters, fake ballots, 'stuffing the ballot box,' votes for pay, roughed up Republican Poll Watchers, and sometimes even more votes than people voting, took place in Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere."

Trump even explicitly claimed that Black voters could not really have turned out for Biden in large numbers.

"We have some big things happening in our various litigations on the Election Hoax. Everybody knows it was Rigged," he said on Nov. 29. "They know Biden didn’t get more votes from the Black community than Obama, & certainly didn’t get 80,000,000 votes. Look what happened in Detroit, Philadelphia, plus!"

On Wednesday, Lankford made it clear that he did not believe his attempts to undermine public trust in the election results played any role in last week's attempted pro-Trump coup.

"So if that's your question, is if I'd have done just one more tweet it would have fixed all that — or, as some are trying to say, if only I would have just told Oklahomans that wanted answers to questions, 'No, I'm not going to help you get answers to questions, you're just going to have to just deal with it,' that that would have suddenly quelled a riot in Washington, D.C.," he told Public Radio Tulsa. "I just don't believe that's true."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.