CHARLOTTE — A Republican congressman who represents a district that includes Robeson County is under fire after saying people are protesting in Charlotte because they “hate white people.”
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whose district includes parts of Charlotte and its suburbs, was asked by an interviewer for Britain’s “BBC Newsnight” what grievance the protesters have.
In the video posted online Thursday, Pittenger responded: “The grievance in their mind is — the animus, the anger — they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”
He also complained that the government has spent too much on welfare programs that ultimately hold people back.
Robeson County was placed in Pittenger’s district, District 9, after North Carolina congressional districts were redrawn early this year.
Pittenger later released a statement apologizing for what he said, and his comments were condemned by Democrats.
“What is taking place in my hometown right now breaks my heart. My anguish led me to respond to a reporter’s question in a way that I regret,” he said in his statement.
Protesters massed on the Charlotte’s streets for a third night Thursday, though the demonstrations were peaceful. Two previous nights included chaotic protests that damaged property, injured people and led to one death.
The protests stemmed from the shooting of a black man by a police officer Tuesday. Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot Tuesday while police were looking for a different person to serve an outstanding warrant.
The North Carolina Democratic Party released a statement saying Pittenger’s remarks were inexcusable and accused him of “fanning the flames of hate with his racist rhetoric.”
First elected to his seat in 2012, Pittenger’s largely affluent district was redrawn under court-ordered redistricting and now stretches along the South Carolina border. Previously, Robeson had been part of the 8th District.
In the March primary, Pittenger won about 23 percent of votes cast in Robeson County. He faces Democrat Christian Cano in the November election, a Charlotte busienssman who had no primary opposition.
Associated Press writer Jonathan Drew contributed to this report.