Rep. Clyburn: We aren't against policing, we're against rotten police officials

This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 9, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I’m very honored to have the House majority whip with us right now, James Clyburn, of course, of South Carolina.

Congressman, always good to have you.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Oh, same here.

CAVUTO: That was a very powerful service. Your thoughts?

CLYBURN: Well, we have been sort of mourning this death for a long time.

I watched some of the service today. Didn’t watch all of it. I watched almost everything from Minneapolis, of course. But I hope that we can see from this too short a life, and the reaction of this family to this untimely death, I hope we get some lessons from that as to how we ought to conduct ourselves going forward.

We ought to keep in mind that, any time there’s a movement like this, there will always be those who will attempt to take advantage of it with their own ideas in mind. That’s what happened back in the ‘60s.

I often talk with John Lewis about how the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that both of us were founders of, how it got hijacked. And while we were sort of plugging along, doing our thing, registering people to vote, getting political activity going, all of a sudden, we woke up one morning, and there was a new slogan: "Burn, baby, burn."

That was not our slogan. That slogan got superimposed over the movement. And, before you knew it, the movement was destroyed.

And so, when I watched people burning, throwing rocks, I remind people all the time, that’s not what this family wants. They are making it very clear. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with, but it needs to be dealt with within the order of things.

And so I would hope that we will all not allow this attempt to hijack this effort to succeed in turning us against each other and conjuring up all kinds of things that just aren’t there.

Take a lesson from North Charleston and from Charleston, when Walter Scott was shot in the back running away from the police. We saw it. The community reacted. People went to the streets.

But the mayor of North Charleston, a Republican, took over the leadership of that issue, fired the police officer. He was tried, convicted and now spending 20 years in jail.

Nobody threw any bricks. Nobody burned down a building. The same thing happened two months later. Next week, we’re going to celebrate and commemorate the fifth anniversary of those poor souls murdered in the basement of the Emanuel AME Church.

Nobody threw any bricks. Nobody burned down the building. But, this time, the Democratic mayor of Charleston rallied with the community, and we peacefully found a conviction, and the community came together.

That’s what this family wants from this effort, for us to reform our beliefs. Let’s do what is necessary, that we know that law enforcement in this country was built upon two divergent set of experiences, white people who came to this country with their own free will, seeking liberty and justice, and black people who came to this country against their will, chained, shackled, and enslaved.

Our law enforcement system has been built upon those two pillars, trying to perpetuate one group with freedom, and the other with something less than freedom.

This has to come to an end. And I hope that this service today will remind us that we are in search of a more perfect union, and we should not give up on the search for a more perfect union, and we should not allow anything or anybody to separate us from that issue.

CAVUTO: Congressman, you had mentioned how, in the past, more violent groups had hijacked this message.

I guess you are concerned about the violence, obviously, the looting and some of the other things that happened. Many of those same protesters are now very angry at police departments. There are moves afoot in many cities and states to defund, to rethink the way they operate.

But the defunding part, taking money away, cutting their budgets, not having them deal, for example, one proposal in Minneapolis, with the school system there, other council members who are urging all ties be cut with the police department there, what do you think of all of these efforts?

CLYBURN: I think that that is a police department.

And the example keep using is Camden, New Jersey. That was about four or five years ago. That was a police department that was rotten to the core. They didn’t defund policing. They defunded the department.

The policing was taken over by the county. And the policing was also contracted by private entities. So, the policing kept going, and it was funded. They just got rid of a rotten department.

And that’s what we need to do when it comes to law enforcement. I grew up in a parsonage. And one of my earliest memories was my father, who was president of his presbytery, presiding over defrocking of a minister.

That didn’t close the church. They got rid of a rotten minister.

Same thing goes here. Nobody is against policing. We are against rotten police officials. And that’s what we need to do here. Keep this in proper perspective. Get rid of the rotten apples. They will ruin the whole barrel if you don’t.

CAVUTO: Congressman, Joe Biden, who you were -- played a crucial role in resurrecting his campaign and then -- and paving the way now to his likely nomination, he has said some of the efforts by many in your party to defund or deny funds for the police, it might be shortsighted.

I am paraphrasing here, but that you want to change behavior, you want them to be aware of how they act and whether they treat African-Americans differently than they do whites, address these -- these irregular patterns of behavior, but you do not want to go so far as to send a signal to the American people the party is against the police.

Do you agree with that sentiment, or do you think, here, he might have it wrong?

CLYBURN: I agree with Joe Biden on that. I have said as much.

I am very proud of the police department here in Columbia, South Carolina. Chief Holbrook does a good job. And I know a lot of those police officers. They do good. I’m very proud of most of the police departments that I know about. In fact, I am proud of all of them that I know about in my congressional district.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any rotten apples. Look, there are good members of Congress, and there are members of Congress who may not be good. The public will get rid of the ones who may not be good.

And we ought to do the same thing here. Just when you have got a department that gets rotten to the core doesn’t mean you get rid of policing as an entity.

You know, I don’t know where we ever got it from that one person should ruin a whole cadre of people. That’s just not the case. Same thing in any profession, no matter what it is. News reporting, there are good news reporters, some not so good. Commentators, some good, some not so good.

And the system ought to weed out the not-so-goods.

CAVUTO: So, Congressman, looking at today’s development, I did notice that in the audience were those who have lost relatives themselves, from Trayvon Martin, and, of course, Eric Garner and a host of others.

But this particular case, Congressman, with George Floyd seems to have touched a nerve unlike any of those others.

Why do you think that’s the case?

CLYBURN: Well, simply because, usually, when something like this happens, you see the event. You don’t see what led up to it. And then, sometimes, you don’t see what came after it.

In this particular instance, we saw what led up to this. We saw with our own eyes this gentleman being handcuffed with his hands behind his back and being drug to an automobile, laid down with his face at the exhaust pipe, with a knee on his neck, another knee on his back, another knee across his legs.

People get -- keep forgetting, there were three knees on him at one time. And heard him cry out for his dead mother, heard him, say, "I cannot breathe," heard him say that, my back hurts, everything hurts, and then no pulse.

And for two minutes more, that knee stayed on his neck. That, everybody saw.

And I don’t know that young lady, the 17-year-old young lady that filmed all of this, but she needs to be honored for having done that. I have asked my staff to try to find out who she is, where she is. And I think we need to treat her the same way we treated the young man who found the tape at Watergate.

That changed the world. This changed the world.

CAVUTO: You’re right. It was the video that made the big difference, to your point, Congressman. And that 17-year-old girl, woman had said even there: Stop, stop. You’re -- this guy is hurting.

CLYBURN: Yes. You’re killing him.

CAVUTO: There were so many impressive comments today and remembrances, Congressman.

The one who stood out to me was Brooklyn (sic) Williams, I guess Mr. Floyd’s niece. She might have gone a little too far in a lot of people’s eyes into politics by saying: "Someone said, make America great again, but when has America ever been great?" She said: "America, it is time for a change."

Is there a feeling among those in the civil rights movement, even today, and those directly or indirectly affected by the tragic death of George Floyd who feel that, that this idea of make America great again does not apply to them, they have missed out on all of this, and the death of Floyd kind of proved that, and it still is something that sticks in many’s craw?

What do you think?

CLYBURN: Well, I think what I always deals with that stuff about making America great again, America doesn’t have to be made great again. It is great.

It has been great, as a nation, for a long, long time. The problem has been that greatness has not been meted out to everybody in the same way. We have got a great health care system, but everybody can’t afford it. Everybody don’t have access to it.

We have got a great educational system, but it’s not accessible and affordable to everybody. We have got a great judicial system, but it’s just not made accessible and affordable and equitable for everybody.

That’s -- I don’t know of a judicial system anywhere in the world that’s better designed than this one. But very few are implemented as -- implemented as poorly as this one. That’s the issue.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his great writing "Democracy in America," made it very clear that America is not great because it’s more enlightened than any other nation, but, rather, because it has always been able to repair its faults.

We have revealed some faults in health care, in our judicial system, in our educational system. And we need to get about the business of repairing those faults, and quit arguing about what it means for reparation.

The word for the reparation is to repair. That’s what it is. It doesn’t have a monetary definition. The root word is repair. So, let’s repair the things. That’s what reparation is all about, repairing our faults.

CAVUTO: James Clyburn, I know you have to take off. You have been very kind to stay with us.

I did want to get your thoughts, meanwhile, on the president talking about -- this is about law and order and keeping people safe. And you mentioned your own concerns about some of the violence that was associated, particularly early on, after Mr. Floyd’s death, the protests that turned and morphed into something very different, looting and the rest.

And it would seem that those images that have appeared on televisions across the country, to hear some Republicans tell it, Congressman, that’s a searing 1968 image. And the argument then is that it is so jostled Americans that they went to the law and order candidate, Richard Nixon, and that this is so jostling Americans that they might do the same with the law and order candidate, Donald Trump.

What do you think of that?

CLYBURN: That’s Donald Trump’s wish. That’s what I think of it. That’s his wish. That’s the game he’s playing.

And I have been saying to all my constituents and everybody that will listen, we must not play their game. When I was playing sports, the one thing I knew, that if my opponent ever got me to playing his game on his turf, he would win.

So, violence is not our game. That’s the president’s game. Insulting people, that’s not our game. That’s the president’s game.

The only time I saw violence in Washington, D.C., was those horseback riders driving people off the streets. That’s when I saw it. That, to me, is his game. That’s not our game. And we will not play his game. If we play his game, he will win. We play our game, we will win.

CAVUTO: I lied to say that I was done, but I did want to finally get your thoughts on the -- you talk about Joe Biden, again, a man whose career you -- presidential campaign you almost single-handedly rescued with your support in South Carolina, and then he had a string of victories right after that.

I am curious. There’s growing sentiment, not only he’s going to pick a woman, but it would be an African-American woman.

Do you believe that that is important, that Joe Biden, whoever that choice comes down to, it is an African-American woman?

CLYBURN: I have said time and time again I am the father of three daughters.

Nothing would make me more proud than to see an African-American woman on the ticket with him. That would be a plus, but it’s not a must. I have said that. I believe that very strongly.

CAVUTO: If it were just a woman, what would your reaction be?

CLYBURN: That will be a plus. That will be a plus for women.

It’s got to be a woman, because he said in the campaign that he would select a woman. So, it’s got to be a woman. And I would be very proud if it were a black woman.

CAVUTO: James Clyburn, thank you for taking the time, sir. It’s always good catching up with you, the House majority whip pushing the very civil rights issues that are very much in vogue right now.

He was doing it at a time of great personal peril to him, a long, colorful career that has, sadly, been repeated in incidents here, where he comes forth and just says, we can do better.

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