NBC Anchor Asks Black Republican Senator Tim Scott If He’s A ‘Token’

OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

Republican Senator Tim Scott is the only black Republican currently serving in the chamber and, as a result of this unique status, some online trolls have referred to him as a “token.”

The status is usually written off as an unfair caricature, but as the Washington Examiner reports, NBC News anchor Craig Melvin actually asked Scott to address it.

“Senator, you have faced a fair amount of criticism,” Melvin said, “especially over the past few days, because you are the only black Republican senator.“

The NBC anchor, who is also black, continued: “Some have said that your party is using you, they’ve even thrown around the word ‘token,’ as well. Your response to that criticism?”

“Well, I am also the only person in my conference who has been racially profiled, driving while black,” Scott responded. “I’m the only one in my conference that’s been stopped seven times in one year as an elected official, perhaps the only one in my conference wearing this senate pin that was stopped from coming into the building.”

The South Carolina senator continued: “So if there’s someone in the conference who understands discrimination and profiling, it’s me. It’s the reason why I asked to lead this charge because it is a personal issue; it is the right issue. And frankly, I think it helps to have someone who has been a victim of this situation and who still has a tremendous respect for where our country can go together. So I shrug those comments and criticisms off. But you’ve got to know, when you’re a black Republican, you’re like a unicorn. People are going to criticize you when you wake up, when you go to sleep. If you say you like apple pie and football, there’s a lot of critics for that, too. So, God bless their souls.”

In an op-ed with the Washington Examiner, commentary writer Becket Adams wrote:

Reporters often use the “some people say” formulation to level criticisms they generally agree with but do not want to state outright for fear of appearing biased. So, to maintain the appearance of objectivity, and to dodge being held responsible for stating their own controversial thoughts, reporters often couch their questions in terms of a shadowy “they” who are saying something. The extra pathetic thing in the specific case of Melvin’s interview with Scott is that the NBC anchor does not quite seem to believe that the senator is a “token.” Melvin does appear to believe, however, that there may be merit to the criticism, so he goes so far as to give airtime to nameless persons — remember, the anchor offers no citation for the slur against Scott — who say the senator is a puppet of his mostly white overlords. This is only one step below Melvin himself outright calling Scott a “token.”

But rather than get mad, the senator responded to the insulting question with characteristic grace.

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