South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, faces demands from state Democrats to apologize for a remark he used to refer to them during a Republican Party event over the weekend.
“I look forward to the day that Democrats are so rare, we have to hunt them with dogs,” McMaster said at a state GOP convention, a reporter for The State newspaper, Joseph Bustos, tweeted during the event.
McMaster’s comment swiftly drew condemnation from South Carolina Democrats, who called for the Republican governor to apologize.
The Anderson County Democratic Party shared a petition online with a statement from its chairman, Chris Salley, asking McMaster to apologize and “retract this racially-tinged dog whistle” and for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division to open an investigation “into this threat and incitement of political violence” if the governor refuses to do so.
“As a Black, gay man in America, I’ve had to be on guard for people trying to ‘hunt me down’ most of my life and I know thousands of people across South Carolina are forced to feel the same,” Salley said. “This rhetoric emboldens violent extremists, chills political discourse, and needs to end.”
Christale Spain, chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, decried McMaster’s comments as “absolutely chilling” to hear.
“The majority of the Dem electorate in SC is Black and our governor is saying out loud he can’t wait to hunt us down with dogs,” Spain, who is also Black, tweeted. “This is absolutely chilling to hear from. Southern Gov who knows our history.”
In response to the outcry from Democrats, a spokesperson for McMaster, Brandon Charochak, said the governor had issued the same comment at previous GOP conventions, and that “everyday South Carolinians understand that it’s a joke.”
“If South Carolina Democrat partisans can no longer bear light-hearted jokes made at their expense, then maybe they should focus their energy on winning and not whining,” Charochak said in a statement.
McMaster previously referred to Democrats as “dogs” in remarks at a barbecue event in 2018, The State reported.
“Our Democratic friends are a lot like dogs. One on one, they’re really nice, but in a pack they’re dangerous,” McMaster said at the 2018 event, the State reported. “So I tell you, we can’t let up. We got to go hard. And in South Carolina we are making progress, and it’s because we have a president ... Donald Trump, who is one of the greatest we have ever had or ever will have.”