The Slatest

Oklahoma GOP Senator Is Sorry His Effort to Delegitimize the Election Offended Black Constituents

Sen. James Lankford sits with his legs crossed at a table during a committee hearing.
Sorta sorry? Greg Nash/Getty Images

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma issued an apology Thursday to his Black constituents for months of casting doubt on the election of Joe Biden, including going so far as to suggest that last week’s Electoral College certification be postponed to investigate whatever absurdist fraud allegations were cooked up by President Donald Trump. In a letter addressed to “My friends in North Tulsa,” portions of which were published by Tulsa World, Lankford said his questioning the legitimacy of the election “caused a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state. I was completely blindsided, but I also found a blind spot.”

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“What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit,” Lankford wrote. “After decades of fighting for voting rights, many Black friends in Oklahoma saw this as a direct attack on their right to vote, for their vote to matter, and even a belief that their votes made an election in our country illegitimate.”

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“I can assure you,” he wrote, “my intent to give a voice to Oklahomans who had questions was never also an intent to diminish the voice of any Black American.” Lankford faced significant criticism from Black leaders in the city over his support of Trump’s election claims, and some called for the senator’s removal from the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Committee, an effort to commemorate the racist massacre of Black citizens in an affluent Tulsa community known as Black Wall Street. Lankford’s apology stopped well short of a full mea culpa for his destructive behavior or its disproportionate impact on Black American voters, but did acknowledge how Black Oklahomans felt about his participation in a Republican effort to discredit vote tallies in largely Black districts.

“I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you,” Lankford wrote. “I deeply regret my blindness to that perception, and for that I am sorry.”

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