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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell defended his record on civil rights Friday in response to fury on the left after a comment earlier this week about Black voters, with the Kentucky Republican calling the subsequent backlash "offensive and outrageous."
McConnell addressed the controversy at a news conference in Kentucky, calling the criticism an “outrageous mischaracterization of my record as a result of leaving one word out inadvertently the other day, which I just now have supplied to you, is deeply offensive.”
The Senate GOP leader sparked an uproar Wednesday while explaining his opposition to Democrats' voting rights legislation.
"If you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans,” McConnell said at the time, implying that Black voters are not Americans.
On Friday, he said he "inadvertently omitted the word 'almost,’” but then after the news conference ended, he returned to the microphones to correct himself one more time. "The omitted word is 'all,' not 'almost,'" he said. "Sorry."
Following Wednesday's remark, "MitchPlease" began trending on Twitter, with several Democratic lawmakers using the hashtag. Among them was Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who tweeted a picture of himself in front of the White House and wrote, "African Americans ARE Americans. #MitchPlease."
Charles Booker, a Kentucky Democrat seeking to unseat GOP Sen. Rand Paul in November, tweeted a clip of McConnell's comments and added: "I need you to understand that this is who Mitch McConnell is. Being Black doesn’t make you less of an American, no matter what this craven man thinks."
McConnell on Friday called such criticism "hurtful and offensive, and I think some of the critics know it's totally nonsense."
"I was there for Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, in the audience," and was also present "when President [Lyndon] Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in the Capitol in 1965," McConnell said.
"I have had African American speech writers, schedulers, office managers over the years," he added.