Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona referred to blacks as «people of color» Thursday during debate on his proposed amendment to an annual defense policy bill, drawing a sharp rebuke from the former chairman of the Arizona Black Caucus. Congress.
“My amendment has nothing to do with whether people of color or black people or anybody can serve,” the first-term Republican said. «It has nothing to do with any of that.»
The comment came as 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 Department of Defense from considering race, gender, religion, political affiliations or «any other ideological concept» as the sole basis for recruitment training, education, promotion or retention decisions.
«The military was never meant to be, you know, inclusive. Its strength is not its diversity. Its strength is its standards,» said Crane, a 43-year-old combat veteran.
«I’m going to tell you this right now, you can, you can keep playing these games with diversity, equity and inclusion. But there are some real threats out there. And if we keep playing and keep lowering our standards it’s not going to be good,» he added.
Immediately after Crane finished his comments, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, asked that the derogatory phrase he used be removed from the record.
“I find it offensive and highly inappropriate,” said Beatty, who served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in the previous Congress. «I ask for unanimous consent to remove the words referring to me or any of my colleagues as people of color.»
Crane chimed in with a request to amend his comments to «people of color.» However, Beatty insisted that the words be deleted from the minutes. They were removed by unanimous consent.
When contacted to comment on his choice of words, Crane said that he «misspoke».
“In a heated debate over my amendment that would ban discrimination based on skin color in the Military, I misrepresented myself,” Crane said in a statement. «Each of us is made in the image of God and created equal.»
Beatty, 73, had criticized Crane’s amendment as trying to «undermine liberties so that we learn from each other, so that we hire each other, so that we understand each other’s cultures.»
The House is expected to vote on Crane’s amendment Thursday night.
Crane’s comments come the same week that Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama refused to acknowledge that white nationalism is fundamentally racist.
In a CNN interview Monday night, when asked to clarify comments he made in May that appeared to defend white nationalists serving in the military, Tuberville insisted that not all white nationalists are racists. Instead, he suggested they were simply people «who have some, probably different, beliefs.»
rebecca kaplan contributed.