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Did political comments ‘cross the line’? SC Dems, GOP urged to tone down rhetoric

tbarton@thestate.com

A week of name-calling has led to calls for both S.C. Democrats and Republicans to tone down their political rhetoric ahead of November’s general election.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday told reporters a metaphor he used Monday comparing Democrats to dogs was meant as a joke. Some political observers say he’s made it for years.

And Anderson Democrat Mary Geren on Thursday disavowed comments made by S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson calling McMaster and U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, “unpatriotic” and “Christian-less.”

The week began with McMaster and Republican leaders telling GOP supporters gathered in Anderson for Duncan’s Faith and Freedom BBQ not to become complacent in this year’s midterm elections.

McMaster told the crowd not to be fooled by seemingly “reasonable” Democrats.

“Now, they’ll come up and talk to you, and they seem so nice. They seem reasonable. But, then you remember they’re in the same league” as polarizing national Democratic figures, including Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.

“Our Democratic friends are a lot like dogs. One on one, they’re really nice, but in a pack, they’re dangerous,” McMaster said, drawing laughs from the Republican crowd.

The governor on Wednesday stressed the comment was lighthearted.

“When you go to political events, there’s a lot of joking around going on,” McMaster told reporters gathered at the State House. “That’s a great, great joke. I’m just wondering who’s offended — the Democrats or the dogs?”

McMaster also insisted, “When we let humor go out of our lives, we’re missing something. And I’ll tell you one man who had a sense of humor, and that was (the late U.S. Sen.) John McCain.”

McMaster faces Columbia Democrat and state Rep. James Smith in the fall election. Smith did not publicly respond to McMaster’s comment.

Then, on Tuesday, Robertson blasted McMaster and Duncan for failing to criticize President Donald Trump’s delay in ordering American flags to be lowered after McCain’s death, according to the Anderson Independent Mail.

“These people wrap themselves up in the American flag, they wrap themselves up in God and patriotism; but they are the most unpatriotic, Christian-less people to walk the face of this Earth,” Robertson said at a fundraiser for Geren, who is running against Duncan.

Geren on Thursday released a statement stating Robertson “crossed the line when he questioned the patriotism and faith of Governor McMaster and Congressman Duncan.”

“Let me be clear,” Geren said. “I don’t support a governor calling an entire group of people dogs; I don’t support a congressman referring to millions of men, women, and children as an anti-Semitic hate group for standing up for human rights; I don’t support a presidential candidate referring to a war hero as a coward; and I don’t support my friend calling people unpatriotic and Christian-less when he can’t possibly know their hearts. ... We all must put country before party and stop further dividing our nation.”

Asked for comment on Geren’s statement, Robertson on Thursday said, “I don’t have a reaction at all.”

Tom Barton: 803-771-8304, @tjbarton8
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