Outrage is mounting over a remark South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) made this weekend about hunting Democrats with dogs ― a comment that critics slammed as a “racially-tinged dog whistle” encouraging violence.
McMaster made the shocking remark Saturday during a convention in Lexington, South Carolina, for the state GOP. “I look forward to the day that Democrats are so rare, we have to hunt them with dogs,” he told a crowd of party members.
The comment was first reported by Joseph Bustos, a reporter at The State, who noted that McMaster has used this turn of phrase before.
South Carolina Democrats have since demanded accountability, pointing out that it’s disturbing to hear a white governor, from the state’s nearly entirely white party, make such a comment about the state’s Democrats, a majority of whom are Black.
“The majority of the Dem electorate in SC is Black and our governor is saying out loud he can’t wait to hunt us down with dogs,” Christale Spain, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, tweeted. “This is absolutely chilling to hear from a Southern Gov who knows our history.”
In the antebellum South, slave owners trained dogs to hunt down enslaved people who had escaped. They often used horrifying methods, such as tying up dogs and forcing slaves to abuse them so the dogs would develop a viciousness toward Black people, according to historians. Even today, there are numerous examples of law enforcement officers using police dogs to inflict violence on Black people.
In South Carolina’s Anderson County, the local Democratic Party is circulating a petition demanding an apology from McMaster and asking state law enforcement to investigate his comments as a “threat and incitement of political violence” if he refuses to apologize for using a “racially-tinged dog whistle.”
“As a Black, gay man in America, I’ve had to be on guard for people trying to ‘hunt me down’ most of my life and I know thousands of people across South Carolina are forced to feel the same,” Chris Salley, the county party’s chair, said Sunday. “This rhetoric emboldens violent extremists, chills political discourse, and needs to end.”
Although violent, politically motivated attacks are very real and on the rise, McMaster’s spokesperson, Brandon Charochak, said in a statement this week that the governor’s remark was an obvious joke.
“Governor McMaster has been making this joke at GOP conventions for years and everyday South Carolinians understand that it’s a joke,” he said. “If South Carolina Democrat partisans can no longer bear light-hearted jokes made at their expense, then maybe they should focus their energy on winning and not whining.”