OTR Interviews

Sen. Tim Scott a GOP 'Token'? Do Republicans really 'lower the bar' for African-Americans?

Bloomberg columnist Francis Wilkinson defends his recent article that argued Sen. Tim Scott could be the beneficiary of a GOP equivalent to affirmative action


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 12, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: South Carolina Senator Tim Scott under attack again. Everyone is talking about a new "Bloomberg" opinion column, titled, "Do Republicans Lower the Bar for Blacks"? Some people have been blasting the article for calling Senator Scott nothing more than an affirmative action token. Is that fair?

The author of the piece, Francis Wilkinson, joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: And I should add that it wasn't you that had the token in the headline. But as everything goes viral, you write the story and then the next story has -- is calling Senator Scott a token. But nonetheless, your article was rather harsh on Senator Scott. Why?

WILKINSON: Actually, it wasn't harsh on Senator Scott and it wasn't terrifically about Senator Scott. Ambassador Bolton was on earlier talking about the difficulties of identity politics. And that's something that Republicans haven't really dealt with too much. It hasn't been a problem for them. But as the party diversifies, which I think most people certainly in the Republican leadership agree that it needs to do, they will face some difficult issues. What I have decided to do was to look at the case of Senator Scott and see whether -- it was almost like intellectual exercise -- if it were in the parties' favor to sort of close out a primary and help him win, would think do that on the basis of race? After looking at it, I concluded that not only that would make sense for them to do that but they should do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do figure that they did it on the basis of race?


WILKINSON: -- Greta. That's not what I'm saying.


WILKINSON: You have to understand, this has been sort of blown out of proportion, as things do when you combine the Internet plus racial politics and speculation. I suppose some people should think I get what I deserve. But what I was saying was, look, here's an appointed Senator. The history of appointed Senators is not terrifically successful.

One in five Senators appointed over the last 100 years or so, when they run in the primaries, they lose. He was appointed by a governor who is not particularly popular herself. And there's been a lot of primaries in the republic party recently. Most of those have occurred from the right with Tea Party candidates running across so-called mainstream conservatives. I wanted to look at the idea that maybe it would be in the Republican Party's interest as some point to do what they do in lots of instances, and frankly what the Democratic Party does in lots of instances, which is to clear the field for a preferred candidate.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I was looking at the idea who is running for primaries down in South Carolina. Senator Lindsey Graham is also up for election in November. He drew a whole field of primary challengers, which Senator Scott did. One of the reasons I think probably Senator Lindsey Graham did this, because he has a 38.9 percent disapproval rate, whereas Senator Tim Scott has only a 17.6 percent. If I were going to choose to run against one of them, I would choose to run against the one with the lousier approval rating.

WILKINSON: I'm not so sure I would. Senator Scott is not very well-known.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well he is popular. Anyway, I guess -- and one of the other things I thought -- and we only have 30 seconds left -- if that I read your article. Then the next article after it, says "Bloomberg," writer attacks Tim Scott as an affirmative action token. Token is so insulting. That wasn't your title.


VAN SUSTEREN: But that's the problem when we have a lot of these discussions, is that you start with one and may want to have a good discussion about it, but it certainly gets explosive and sometimes not in a way that generates a good debate or discussion.

WILKINSON: I couldn't agree with you more.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you for joining us.

WILKINSON: Thank you.