A Republican representative in North Carolina’s House of Representatives has issued an apology after asking if one of his black Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives was admitted to Harvard solely because of his race.
It was a horrifying moment that occurred during official proceedings, leading to the white Republican who made the remark, Jeff McNeely, retracting it just hours later.
The comments in question were directed at Rep. Abraham Jones, a Democrat who has represented Wake County, North Carolina, since 2021. Mr. Jones is a graduate of both the Harvard undergraduate program and the university’s law school.
“Couldn’t you have achieved this if you weren’t an athlete or a minority?” Mr McNeely asked Mr Jones on Wednesday.
Mr Jones responded by noting his undergraduate rank at Harvard, the second highest out of five, before calmly replying, “I earned my place and did well.”
Mr McNeely was reportedly barred from further speaking during the present proceedings and later apologized.
“I respect Rep. Jones. I think he’s a great legislator. I think he’s a great man. What I tried to ask or say didn’t come out right. That happens often, and I apologize,” Mr McNeely said, according to Statehouse reporter Bryan Anderson.
North Carolina’s legislature is home to an overwhelming majority of Republican lawmakers, thanks to the recent surprise resignation of a Democratic lawmaker who blamed her ideology shift on alleged mistreatment by her peers.
But the state is also headed by a Democratic governor and is often a purple state in presidential elections.
Mr McNeely’s comments were condemned by State Democrats, including Mr Jones himself, who in his statement described the “thinly veiled racist aspect” of the encounter.
He added separately: “I’ve worked hard to get to where I am today. It is disappointing that another member of our Chamber would suggest that I have succeeded solely because of the color of my skin or because I am an athlete. I appreciate the member’s apologies for his comments.”