Lindsey Graham, South Carolina’s senior U.S. senator, said there is “no place” for hate or bigotry in the Republican Party.
Graham, a Republican from Seneca, spoke Wednesday in Chester County, telling a crowd of around 200 people that he was praying for the friends and family of Heather Heyer.
Heyer, a white legal assistant from Charlottesville, Va., was killed and 19 others were injured Saturday when a car plowed into counter-protesters who had taken to the streets to decry what was believed to be the country's biggest gathering of white nationalists in at least a decade.
“She died a needless death at the hands of a hateful young man,” Graham said at the third annual S.C. I-77 Alliance Economic Development Summit in Richburg.
Graham’s comments offered a stark contrast to President Donald Trump, who critics say buoyed the white nationalist movement by equating activists protesting racism with the white supremacists who marched near the University of Virginia.
Graham said he could remember seeing members of the Ku Klux Klan while walking with his father down the streets of his hometown, Central, in Pickens County.
“I remember my Dad saying, ‘Don’t worry, those people are crazy,’” Graham said. “How far we have come, and how far we have to go.”
Graham pledged that he would oppose “bigotry and hate” as a conservative and Republican.
“There is no place for bigotry in the conservative world and no place for hate in my Republican Party,” he said.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, the summit’s keynote speaker, said Trump “has no trouble expressing himself.”
He said he didn’t believe there would be any similar marches or rallies in South Carolina.
“No one would tolerate that anger and hatred,” McMaster said.
Soon after leaving the summit, Graham tweeted that Trump’s words were “dividing Americans” and called for the president to work to unify.
Republican Tim Scott, South Carolina’s junior U.S. senator from North Charleston, also took a swipe at Trump on Twitter, calling for leadership that sees “no gray area” with racism.
During a news conference Tuesday, Trump blamed both neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, as well as the counter-protesters for the violence.