Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford apologized to his state’s African American residents for challenging President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in a letter issued after Black Tulsans urged the senator to step down from a reconciliation committee for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“I can assure you, my intent to give a voice to Oklahomans who had questions was never also an intent to diminish the voice of any Black American,” Lankford wrote.
In the months after President Donald Trump’s election loss, the president and his allies floated conspiracy theories and leveled baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud that centered heavily on voting in predominantly Black cities and regions.
The president and his allies filed more than 60 lawsuits in state and federal courts, seeking to overturn election results in states the president lost. The election fraud claims were rejected on merits by both Republican-appointed and Democratic-appointed judges. The U.S. Supreme Court twice refused to take up Trump-endorsed lawsuits that sought to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election.
The effort to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the November election has triggered outrage after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer.
“We reject the careless rhetoric and failures of leadership that facilitated, and arguably, incited, the lawless mob action that resulted in property damage, injury, and death, and sullied our internationally admired democracy,” the reconciliation commission said Wednesday.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was a state-aided attack in which the city’s white residents massacred residents of the city’s once-thriving Black community. It is among the worst acts of racial violence in American history.
Lankford was among a group of Republican senators who said they planned to object to the vote in Congress to affirm Biden’s win. But Lankford reversed course after a pro-Trump mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election.
“While we disagree – and disagree strongly at times – we do not encourage what happened today, ever,” Lankford said after the attack. “We are headed tonight towards the certification of Joe Biden being the president of the United States and we’ll work together in this body to be able to set a peaceful example for the days ahead.”
In his letter to Black Tulsans, Lankford, a former Baptist minister, said, “Today, I am asking my friends in North Tulsa for grace and an opportunity for us to show the state what reconciliation looks like in moments of disagreement.”
“Being a part of the effort to shine a light on North Tulsa is an honor and a responsibility for me,” he wrote. “It is my mission, and I will continue working to support you for many years to come.”
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