Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Tuesday that a letter from nearly 100 House Republicans urging President Obama not to appoint Susan Rice as secretary of State employed racially charged “code words” to make its case.
The letter, signed by 97 House Republicans, says Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter”—language Clyburn saw as racially loaded.
“You know, these are code words,” Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, told CNN. “We heard them during the campaign—during this recent campaign we heard Sen. Sununu calling our president lazy, incompetent, these kinds of terms that those of us, especially those of us who were grown and raised in the South, we would hear these little words and phrases all of our lives and we’d get insulted by them.
“Susan Rice is as competent as anybody you will find, and just to paste that word on her causes problems with people like [incoming Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman] Marcia Fudge and certainly causes a big problem with me,” he added.
In a press conference earlier this week, Rep. Fudge (D-Ohio) said she believed criticism of Rice contained “a clear … sexism and racism.”
“Susan Rice is an outstanding person, and to have her sullied like this really frustrates me to no end,” Clyburn said. “And I hate to see representatives from South Carolina, where her roots run deep, out in the forefront of this. It is just unseemly to me.”