Remarks about lynching from a Colorado state lawmaker drew criticism Monday after she posted a video of them on Facebook. Republican Rep. Lori Saine of Firestone made the comments on the House floor last Friday after a dust-up over sponsorship of the annual resolution commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We have come a long way on that arc since the Reconstruction,” Saine told her colleagues in the legislature, “when whites and blacks alike were in nearly equal numbers lynched for the crime of being Republican.”
Historians reject the idea that blacks and their white political allies experienced the same levels of violence after the Civil War.
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Saine’s Democratic colleague in the House, Denver Rep. Leslie Herod, who chairs the General Assembly’s Black Democratic Caucus, called the comments disappointing and divisive.
“The lynching comment is extremely problematic, in the sense that it really does kind of take away and hide some of the dark past that this country has faced,” Herod said Monday. “And if we’re not honest about our history, if we don’t face our past, then we’ll never be able to move forward as nation and a country. And so her comments really sought, I think, to water down the realities of the march for justice and for civil rights.”
Saine said she delivered the comments with little preparation, based on things she'd read. She clarified that she meant only the earliest days of post-Civil War Reconstruction. However, the article Saine said she referenced is an amateur statistical analysis that looks at data from a later period and makes no reference to party affiliation.
Saine made the comments in the House in an effort to criticize Democrats after they kept a fellow Republican from being a primary sponsor of the annual resolution commemorating King. That Republican colleague, Rep. Perry Buck of Windsor, is white.
"I was responding to what I was told, that Rep. Buck couldn't introduce her resolution because it wasn't her heritage,” Saine said Monday. “I really truly feel speaking out about this makes us a better body on both sides of the aisle."
Buck signed on as a cosponsor to the resolution that was eventually introduced. Its two main sponsors are Herod and another Democratic member of the Black Caucus, Aurora’s Jovan Melton. Resolutions can only have two prime sponsors from each chamber.
Herod said she got to be a prime sponsor because this year the resolution also honored former state lawmaker Wilma Webb, whose seat Herod now holds. Webb was the driving force behind Colorado recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official holiday.
This is not the first time Saine has been at the center of a racial controversy at the state Capitol. In 2013, she was criticized by the chair of the state GOP for bringing fried chicken to a Poverty Reduction Task Force, after another member said African-Americans have unhealthy diets.
CPR News’ Bente Birkeland, Sam Brasch and Megan Verlee contributed to this report.