By Mike Cason
The Democratic leader in the Alabama House of Representatives condemned Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s claim that Democrats want reparations for Black Americans because they support compensation for criminals, calling the Republican senator’s assertions “insane.”
Rep. Anthony Daniels of Huntsville joined fellow Democrats in denouncing statements Tuberville made at a rally with former President Donald Trump in Nevada on Saturday night.
“If Sen. Tuberville truly believes what he said about reparations, it’s time for him to be put into concussion protocol and taken off the playing field,” Daniels said. “No one in their right mind could make such an insane statement about an issue that means so much to so many.
“As a former coach, he more than most should understand the importance of fighting for a level playing field. We will continue our march until we get there.”
Tuberville, the former head football at Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati, joined Trump and others to speak at a rally in support of Nevada’s Republican candidates in the Nov. 8 election. Tuberville was talking about the Democratic party’s response to crime.
“They’re not soft on crime,” Tuberville said “They’re pro-crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got,” Tuberville said. “They want to control what you have. They want reparation because they think the people that do the crime are owed that.”
Former Sen. Doug Jones, who lost his seat to Tuberville in the 2020 election, called Tuberville’s comments a “racist rant.” Former state Democratic Party Chair Chris England called Tuberville’s words racist and said they did not make sense. Karlos Dansby, who played under Tuberville at Auburn before a long NFL career, called Tuberville’s statements “unnecessary, dead wrong, ugly.”
Alabama Republican Party Chair John Wahl said he did not know the context of Tuberville’s statements but defended the senator, saying he has a history of working well with people of all backgrounds.
“His record and respect of others speaks volumes about his integrity and character,” Wahl said.
On Monday, Tuberville’s press office did not respond to a request for comment about the response to his statements. Two of the state’s other top elected Republicans, Gov. Kay Ivey and Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, did not respond to requests for comment about what the Republican senator said. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter declined comment.
University of Alabama political science professor Richard Fording said Tuberville’s statements were disappointing.
“Obviously those comments are not truthful and even ridiculous,” Fording said. “I think anyone who has an education and follows politics would know that is just not true.”
Fording, co-author of the book, “Hard White: The Mainstreaming of Racism in American Politics,” said Tuberville’s mixing of the issues of crime and reparations sends a message.
“When you use the term reparations in the context of crime and Democrats, there’s no other conclusion. Everyone knows you’re talking about African Americans,” Fording said.
According to the Associated Press, the Democratic Party has not taken a stance on reparations for Black Americans to compensate for years of unpaid slave labor by their ancestors, though some leading Democrats, including President Joe Biden, back the creation of a commission to study the issue.
“It seems he was trying to appeal to the MAGA wing of the Republican Party and rile up the base, supposedly white voters who have a strong sense of racial resentment,” Fording said “And Donald Trump has been accused of that many times. It’s kind of become like a new sort of playbook for many who try to follow in the path of Donald Trump and try to appeal to his supporters.”
Fording said Tuberville’s comments lacked the subtlety of appeals to certain white voters and groups who are receptive to racist messages, appeals sometimes called “dog whistles.”
“There’s a lot of research on this kind of rhetoric and it’s a big turnoff for a lot of people,” Fording said. “The dog whistle works because it’s a dog whistle and subtle and not very explicit. So, yes, he went over the line in a lot of ways.”
The Alabama Republican Party has launched a campaign to reach conservative Black voters who do not take an active role in politics. Rep. Kenneth Paschal of Shelby County, the only Black Republican in the Legislature and the leader of that effort, did not respond to a request for comment about Tuberville’s statements.