Spoken in front of hundreds of delegates who attended the convention, McMaster’s remark sparked a quick response over the weekend from South Carolina Democratic groups, who asked for an apology and a retraction of the comment. In a statement Sunday, Anderson County Democratic Party Chairman Chris Salley, who is Black, implored the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate if the governor doesn’t apologize for his comment, which Salley described as a “racially-tinged dog whistle” and an “incitement of political violence.”
Christale Spain, chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, called McMaster’s comment “absolutely chilling” in a tweet on Saturday.
“The majority of the Dem electorate in SC is Black and our governor is saying out loud he can’t wait to hunt us down with dogs,” wrote Spain, who is also Black.
Trump’s warning that ‘vicious dogs’ would attack protesters conjured centuries of racial terror
But in a statement Monday, a spokesman for McMaster said the governor had been saying the line at GOP conventions for years, adding that “everyday South Carolinians understand that it’s a joke.”
In 2018, McMaster referred to Democrats as “dogs” before a crowd of 1,250 people at a Faith and Freedom BBQ event hosted by a Republican congressman, the State reported. When McMaster said the comment on Saturday, he was “repeating one of his favorite GOP lines,” Bustos tweeted.
McMaster repeating one of his favorite GOP lines: “I look forward to the day that democrats are so rare, we have to hunt them with dogs.” https://t.co/O5HQcxowMi
— Joseph Bustos 🔥 (@JoeBReporter) May 20, 2023
On Sunday morning, Salley wrote in his statement that as a “Black, Gay man in America, I’ve had to be on guard for people trying to ‘hunt me down’ most of my life.”
He said in an interview Monday that McMaster’s comment evoked the painful history of racial violence Black people in the United States have faced. Hounds were historically sent after enslaved people who tried to escape, and police dogs were set loose on protesters during the civil rights movement.
“There is a very coded language there,” Salley said.
Members of both political parties have faced violence and threats in recent years. In a high-profile case last year, Paul Pelosi, the husband of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was assaulted with a hammer inside their home. The Pelosis’ house was vandalized in 2021, as was the home of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Last week, staff members for Rep. Gerald E. Connolly were attacked by a man with a baseball bat. Citing the attack at the Virginia Democrat’s office and others, the U.S. Capitol Police chief said he wanted a better presence to respond to threats facing members of Congress.
Other South Carolina Democratic groups have also condemned McMaster’s comment, including those from Charleston, Berkeley, Greenwood and Spartanburg counties.
“People are standing up and saying, ‘This is not okay. I don’t care how many times you’ve been making this tired joke,’” Salley said.
Brandon Charochak, McMaster’s spokesman, responded that “if South Carolina Democrat partisans can no longer bear light-hearted jokes made at their expense, then maybe they should focus their energy on winning and not whining.”
As Democratic leaders in the state have asked for an apology, Salley said he hopes the governor’s remark and its backlash do not detract from the issues Democrats have been focusing on, including Medicaid expansion and abortion rights.
“While he may think we’re sitting over here whining, we’re working,” Salley said.
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