Arizona Republican refers to Black Americans as 'colored people' during House floor debate

Arizona Republican refers to Black Americans as ‘colored people’ during House floor debate

Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz. referred to Black people as “colored people” Thursday in floor debate over his proposed amendment to an annual defense policy bill, prompting a stern rebuke from the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or Black people or anybody can serve,” said Crane, who is in his first term. “It has nothing to do with any of that stuff.”

Lawmakers were debating a series of GOP-backed amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House aims to pass by the end of the week.

Crane said his amendment would prohibit the Defense Department from considering race, gender, religion, political affiliations or “any other ideological concepts” as the sole basis for recruitment training, education, promotion or retention decisions.

“The military was never intended to be, you know, inclusive. Its strength is not its diversity. Its strength is its standards,” said Crane, 43, a combat veteran.

“I’m going to tell you guys this right now you can: You can keep playing around these games with diversity, equity and inclusion. But there are some real threats out there. And if we keep messing around and we keep lowering our standards, it’s not going to be good,” he said.

Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., speaks on the floor of the House on Thursday.Courtesy C-SpanImmediately after Crane finished his remarks, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, asked that the derogatory phrase he used be stricken from the record.

“I find it offensive and very inappropriate,” said Beatty, who was the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in the previous Congress. “I am asking for unanimous consent to take down the words of referring to me or any of my colleagues as colored people.”

Crane interjected with a request to amend his comments to “people of color.” Beatty insisted, however, that the words be stricken from the record. They were removed by unanimous consent.

Asked for comment about his choice of words, Crane said he “misspoke.”

“In a heated floor debate on my amendment that would prohibit discrimination on the color of one’s skin in the Armed Forces, I misspoke,” Crane said in a statement. “Every one of us is made in the image of God and created equal.”

Asked about Crane’s remarks Friday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy said it was “not acceptable” but added, “I’ll take him at his word. I’ve never heard him use that before.”

Beatty, 73, had criticized Crane’s amendment as trying to “undermine the freedoms for us to learn about one another, for us to hire one another, for us to understand our cultures.”

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, speaks on the floor of the House on Thursday.Courtesy C-SpanThe House adopted Crane’s amendment Thursday night in a 214-210 vote.

In the Senate this week, Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., refused to acknowledge that white nationalism is fundamentally racist.

Asked to clarify comments he made in May that appeared to defend white nationalists’ serving in the military, Tuberville insisted in an interview Monday night on CNN that not all white nationalists are racists. He instead suggested that they are simply people “that have a few, probably different beliefs.”

Zoë Richards

Zoë Richards is the evening politics reporter for NBC News.

Rebecca Kaplan


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