Does the nation's only African-American senator believe in civil rights? Sen. Tim Scott fires back at NAACP

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 3, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Is this because the only African-American senator is a Republican, the NAACP flunking Senator Tim Scott?


BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: We have a congressman now going to be a new senator, Tim Scott. He's black. He gets an F on our report card every year. Look, we have Republicans who believe in civil rights. You know, the -- unfortunately, he is not one of them.


VAN SUSTEREN: South Carolina senator Tim Scott was sworn in just hours ago, and Senator Scott joins us. Nice to see you, sir. Congratulations.

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

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what do you make of the NAACP? He says, the president, that you don't believe in civil rights.

SCOTT: I think it's ridiculous.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why does he say that?

SCOTT: Well, I mean, I think the -- the -- some folks really want to find a way to make race more of a part of their conversation going forward, and I think that it's time for us to continue to move forward as a nation.

If you really think about where we are, we have the most diverse freshman class in the Senate perhaps in its history. America has made amazing steps forward, and we will continue to make steps forward as we focus on those issues that bring us together.

Economic freedom is a real opportunity in this nation for a lot of folks. The way we get there is by making sure that family incomes go up while government spending goes down.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think he would have said that if were you a Democrat, or do you think that this is truly based on your voting record as a member of the House of Representatives?

SCOTT: Well, certainly, there's no doubt that one of the things I realized is that folks like Mr. Jealous believe that a larger government somehow means more freedom. I just complete completely disagree.

VAN SUSTEREN: So is that why you think that he says that to you? That -- I mean, OK, there's size of government and there's civil rights. He's hitting you for civil rights.

SCOTT: Yes. It's baseless, but at the end of the day, if you find a way to perhaps fund-raise off this election process for the -- for some folks, maybe that's not a good thing for them, but it's not a good thing for the country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they have a report card in terms of, you know, whether or not they -- they -- whether you agree with their -- their legislative report card.


VAN SUSTEREN: And in attacking you over civil rights, one of the things that they disagree with you is your vote on banning the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, which for the life of me, I don't know what it has to do with civil rights.

SCOTT: It...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, gas emissions, whether you're for it or against it, they have that as -- you know, as -- that is one part of their reason to think that you're bad on civil rights.

SCOTT: Yes. Once again, it's almost laughable. Unfortunately, some people take it pretty seriously. The way I really look at it, honestly, is that we have some serious issues and some serious opportunities, and I want to focus on the serious opportunities to move moving people forward.

I think about the fact that here I am sitting here, having this conversation with you, a kid growing up in a single-parent household, a mom who believed in a future that I could not see, a mentor that came along and taught me very simple business principles. And it works! It works!

And if we were to unleash free markets throughout this country, if we would address the antiquated system that we have on taxation, if we would lower our corporate taxes, we'd see prosperity in this nation in a way that we haven't seen in a long time!

We have an opportunity to inspire Americans, and yet we're going to have to have a conversation about the lowest common denominator of fear.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we get away from that? I mean -- I mean, when I heard that, I mean, I thought it was just sort of code. You're a Republican. You're African-American. So the NAACP -- you know, what better way to -- you know, to get at you than slap you around on something so personal to an African-American as civil rights...

SCOTT: Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... as it should be to every American.

SCOTT: Of course. Well, the way that we get beyond it is recognize that we have an opportunity to inspire young folks. I think about kids who are coming up in the same situation that I came up in.

We can talk to those kids about the fact that this country, the American dream, is alive. It's well. And in the worst economy -- I look back at the unemployment rate when I graduated from high school. It was over 8.3 percent, very similar situation as it is today.

And yet, coming out of school, I had so much optimism about the future because I believed what my mentor and my mother were telling me, and it's still true today, that the future of this nation is dependent on someone coming up with one really good idea. And that's part of the free market system that we have.

If the small government concept grows, we have fewer dollars leaving our pockets, we have more folks motivated to make a profit. As a small business owner for the last 14-and-a-half years, I hire people based on my profits.

It's a great system, the best in the world!

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I don't know if you know my history, but I was -- I did a lot of civil rights work as a lawyer for years, so it's very important to me. And I look around the country, and I see these inner cities and it -- you know, it is very disturbing...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... that there's no economic opportunity at all. When -- when politicians run for office, nobody ever talks about them at all. Nobody campaigns in the inner cities. The vote is taken for granted as a being Democratic vote, although their -- their -- their situation has deteriorated over the years.


VAN SUSTEREN: They've gotten nothing out of it. And we talk about protecting the middle class, which is important, but nobody -- the narrative is so far away from how to lift and empower, and everyone just seems to be grabbing for money or grabbing for entitlements or thinking people are taking money from them, or whatever. The whole narrative has shifted away from actually trying to accomplish something and improve these situations.

SCOTT: And I hope to bring that narrative back to the forefront. I'll tell you, in the next two weeks, I'll speak at my high school, Stahl High School -- go Warriors! -- and Stahl High School is a place where I believe the minority population between Hispanics and African-Americans around 65 or 70 percent.

I'm looking forward to going to my old high school and talking about the teachers who empowered me to think for myself, looking at an opportunity to talk to kids who are coming up with single-parent homes about the fact that if you work hard, you have a strong work ethic and you have discipline, the future is very bright for you.

And I tell you, when I talk to kids about making the minimum wage and me giving away $3 of their paycheck to people they don't know, they don't like that concept.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so today was day one as senator. So it must have been sort of exciting. Tell me what was the biggest thrill. Who'd you meet today? What -- was there something that's particularly fun as being a first-day senator?

SCOTT: You know, the -- probably the best part of the day was Stahl High School actually streaming my ceremony live.

VAN SUSTEREN: That is fun! That is...

SCOTT: I thought that was really...


VAN SUSTEREN: That's good! I like that!

SCOTT: Number two, I think, was just walking into the chamber and looking up, seeing my mom on the left-hand side and my brother on the right-hand side and realizing that the people that came together when I was almost a high school -- I dropped out of high school, almost, as a freshman. I failed world geography, civics, Spanish and English.

When you fail Spanish and English, they don't call you bilingual, OK? They call you bi-ignorant. And the fact that I was able to have folks come into my life at the right time and help me to jump forward, it's a beautiful thing. And we're going to see that repeated throughout this country.

So John Thune, Senator John Thune, big guy -- we played basketball against Georgetown's staff last year for a charity event.


SCOTT: We did because of Scott Brown.


SCOTT: So we needed help again. We had an opportunity to talk to John McCain, a war hero. So it was nice to see -- Roy Blunt used to be in the House, working with Jeff Flake, who spent a week on a desert or an island eating grub, or something. It was just a lot of good characters that I met today.

And of course, I served with Jeff in the House. This is going to be an opportunity for us to come together, have a real dialogue with the American people about how the promised land is still alive and well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Senator, nice to see you, and congratulations. And thank you for coming here on your first day.

SCOTT: Thank you, Greta. There's no place else I'd rather be.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, that's great! And I actually think the most fun is being -- having the high school stream that. That is, like -- that's the best. It doesn't get much better than that, does it.

SCOTT: Not much better. Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Senator.