Senator James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma who spent weeks trying to overturn the presidential election results before changing his mind at the last moment, apologized Thursday to black voters who felt that he attacked their right to vote.
In a letter to his “friends” in North Tulsa, which has many black residents, Mr Lankford wrote on Thursday that his efforts to challenge the election result had “caused a storm of suspicion among many of my friends, especially in black communities. in the state.
“After decades of fighting for the right to vote, many black friends in Oklahoma saw this as a direct attack on their right to vote, to make their vote count, and even the belief that their vote made an election illegitimate. in our country, ”he wrote. , according to the Tulsa World news site.
Mr Lankford said in the letter that he never intended to “lower the voice of a black American”. Yet he added: “I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you.”
Mr Lankford, who sits on a key Senate oversight committee, was initially one of the Republicans who tried to overturn Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, even as the courts dismissed baseless questions raised by President Trump and his allies on electoral mischief. .
Democrats in Congress viewed Mr. Lankford as a rare cooperative partner on the franchise, and his decision to join those Republicans seeking to deprive tens of millions of voters – many of whom were black citizens living in Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta – came as a surprise.
The first indication he might do so came when he appeared in December at a Senate hearing on alleged voting “irregularities”, when he repeated unsubstantiated Trump campaign claims about voting in Nevada. which had been debunked in court almost two weeks earlier.
Mr Lankford and other Republicans claimed that by challenging the election results they were exercising their independence and acting in the interests of voters who demand answers.
“There are a lot of people in my state who still want these answers released,” Lankford said days before the Electoral College vote was certified.
After the riot on Capitol Hill, Mr Lankford was one of many Republican senators to abandon their previous challenge, saying lawlessness and chaos caused them to change their minds.
In a joint statement that evening with Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana, Lankford called on “all of Congress to come together and vote to certify the election results.”
Mr Lankford faced calls from black leaders to resign from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centenary Commission, designed to commemorate the racist massacre in the Greenwood neighborhood, an affluent black community known as the Black Wall Street. The massacre, which took place 100 years ago this spring, was one of the worst cases of racist violence in American history. A white mob destroyed the neighborhood and its black-owned businesses, and up to 300 residents were killed.