In her first interview since Joe Biden’s first joint address of Congress, Kamala Harris said she agreed that America is not a racist country as Senator Tim Scott declared in the Republican rebuttal to the speech.
However, the vice president had a major caveat to the statement, saying that truth must also be spoken about the history of racism in the country and racism today.
In his remarks following the president’s speech to Congress on Wednesday evening, Mr Scott, the only Black Republican senator, made the declaration that “America is not a racist country”, and decried what he referred to as fighting “discrimination with different types of discrimination”.
He also accused Democrats of attempting “to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”
Appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos asked Ms Harris if she agreed with the statement.
Ms Harris, the first Black and South Asian vice president, responded: “First of all, no I don’t believe that America is a racist country, but we also have to speak truth about the history of racism in this country and its existence today.”
“I applaud the president for always having the ability and the courage frankly to speak the truth about it,” she added.
“He spoke [about] what we know from the intelligence community, one of the greatest threats to our national security is domestic terrorism, manifested by white supremacists.”
Ms Harris continued: “These are issues that we must confront, and it does not help to heal our country and unify us as a people to ignore the realities of that.”
The vice president said that Mr Biden “has been outstanding and a real national leader” in saying that the country should “confront the realities and let’s deal with it, knowing we all have so much more in common than what separates us.”
She added that the idea is to unify the country, “but not without speaking truth and requiring accountability as appropriate”.
In his rebuttal to the president’s speech, Sen Scott described discrimination he experienced as a Black man.
“I know firsthand our healing is not finished,” he said in his remarks. “Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country.”
The senator’s rebuttal criticised Mr Biden for what he claims are failures to live up to his pledge to “lower the temperature” and “govern for all Americans” as he entered office. The administration has centred racial equity across federal agencies to address long-standing systemic injustices and the nation’s deep-rooted systemic racism.
Mr Scott said that “race is not a political weapon to settle every issue like one side wants” and argued that Democrats have sought to address injustice for political reasons.
Following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020, the senator drafted legislation to overhaul policing, which languished in the Senate.
Mr Scott is now leading GOP efforts to work on a bipartisan police reform bill, among few areas of compromise among the parties, following House Democrats’ passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.