OTR Interviews

Sen. Tim Scott: Conservatives of color 'frightening' to the left

South Carolina senator responds to an NAACP leader's accusation that the GOP uses people of color as 'mouthpieces'


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 6, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A North Carolina NAACP leader is taking on the Tea Party. Reverend William Barber saying the Tea Party is actively seeking out minorities to use as mouth pieces.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott knows what it is like to be the target of Reverend Barber's comments. We spoke with Senator Scott earlier today.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you.

SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: Thank you. It's good to be back with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thanks for letting us come to your office.

SCOTT: Absolutely. Welcome.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you.

All right, you are a conservative, right?


SCOTT: Absolutely, yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: The head of the NAACP, North Carolina, Reverend William Barber, said -- he described minorities who support conservative causes as mouthpieces.

SCOTT: Yeah, it's ridiculous, number one. Here is what concerns me about not only his comments but those comments from folks like him. It suggests that there is a monolithic thinking in the African-American community or communities that are steeped in poverty, no matter your color. That should be challenged every time it comes out because it's wrong. And the impact of those comments on people who are looking for a way out of poverty or for a way to expand their opportunities, looking to start a new company, they are told very quickly don't be different, don't think for yourself, don't do things in ways that are inconsistent with your community or you will find yourself having been rebuked by the leaders of that community. That's just a very bad impression to leave on the minds of young kids.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think he said that? He has said other things before. He has called you a ventriloquist dummy. He has singled you out. Why do you think he has done that?

SCOTT: It's hard to tell why. I try not to focus too much attention on why people say what they do. I can't look at his heart and figure out his intentions. It's counterproductive to have the conversation about him.

We should have the conversation, however, about those folks who have been trapped in poverty, as I once lived. I have seen people living in ways and in places that were much worse than mine. And they are consistently asking for the same thing, opportunity. They are not asking for someone to give them something. They're asking for the ability to succeed and to achieve based on what's inside them. And they need an opportunity to have it excavated.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you ever go home at night though -- because there are so few African-Americans in the Republican Party. Do you ever go home at night after getting sort of swatted around by African-Americans and think, like, you know, give it a rest, or do you feel bad about it? Does it get under your skin?

SCOTT: Well, 18 years ago, when I was called everything I possibly could be called, when I was first elected to county council, the attacks I received, the phone calls were vicious. I'm not sure that they have changed a lot. Unfortunately and fortunately, my skin is a little thicker. But what I realized is that now the message or the attacks really aren't about me. It's, perhaps, that we're striking some fear because here's the conservative guy who is bald, talking these -- talking about policies that move people forward. Maybe that's what they are concerned about and not the melatonin in my skin. I'm not quite sure what drives them crazy but there is something about having unique conservatives placed in prominent positions at a time when there is such a great debate about the wealth gap increasing in the last five years that brings out the worse in some folks, and I feel sorry for them, honestly.

VAN SUSTEREN: You were in the House before you were in the Senate. A lot of African-Americans in the House, not so much here in the U.S. Senate. Did you -- were they receptive to you, the Democrats on the other side, or was there some sort of tension because you are an African-American Republican?

SCOTT: Well, just to be transparent, there is a natural tension, it seems, between being a Republican and the black community, it seems. What I find is if you don't pay attention to that natural tension, that you diffuse it very quickly just by being yourself.

So when I was -- when I had the opportunity to become appointed to the Senate, the first one who stopped and penned an editorial on my behalf was the chairman of the CBC. He decided that I represented the values of South Carolina. But I also did it in a legitimate way. So I have found great support from many of my friends who are in the CBC. It takes a little work. There are people who raise their eyebrows and they are a little suspicious.

When I go to historically black colleges, universities, the first question I get from the kids are, why are you a Republican? Did you know what you were doing? When I share my story and share the journey, I talked about the notion of individual responsibility and a free enterprise system that really has the opportunity to help you achieve your highest potential and meet your highest goals, they become interested in the dialogue. And that's what I think is, perhaps, fright to the left, is that we have an opportunity to have a serious conversation, not about what I believe or what they believe, but what does the person who needs the opportunity believe, and how can we help them get out?

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, it's always nice to see you. Thank you very much.

SCOTT: Thank you so much. Yes, ma'am.