Arizona Republican Rep. Eli Crane said he “misspoke” after using the racially charged term “people of color” on the House floor, drawing swift condemnation from Democratic lawmakers and the Congressional Black Caucus.
“In the heated debate over my amendment to prohibit discrimination in the armed forces based on the color of one’s skin, I misspoke. Each of us is created in God’s image and created equal,” Crane said in a statement.
The new Republican used the term Thursday evening as members debated one of his proposed amendments.. His amendment prohibits the Pentagon from engaging in training or support for “certain racial views” in the hiring, promotion or retention of individuals.
Crane responded to Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty’s comments, saying, “My amendment can serve people of color or black people or anybody, right? It has nothing to do with the color of your skin . . . any of that.”
It soon asked Beatty, a black man who served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, to strike his words from the Congressional Record. “I ask for unanimous consent to delete words that refer to me or any of my colleagues as ‘people of color,'” he said.
Crane first tried to amend his comments to “people of color,” before Beatty jumped back in and said his words should be struck down. No one in the room raised an objection, and the chair gave unanimous approval.
Beatty wrote about the exchange that day Twitter: “I’m still not entirely convinced that a Republican has ever uttered the words ‘colored people’ in reference to African-American service members who sacrifice their lives for our freedom. Or anywhere in Congress. That’s why I asked for those words to be removed from the record by unanimous consent.”
In an interview with CBS News, the Ohio Democrat said he disagreed with Crane’s explanation, saying he “misspoke.”
“He wasn’t wrong,” Beatty said. “In my opinion, he’s made it clear what he wants to do.”
He said some lawmakers were planning to hold special hours on Monday.
“This shows directly why we need DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion),” explained Beatty. “DEI is not about hiring a black person or getting a person into the military or college. It’s about diversity of thought.”
“It’s very frustrating to fight on the floor of the United States House,” he added.
The Congressional Black Caucus called on Crane to apologize to Beatty and service members and suggested he contact the House Diversity Office.
“Representative Eli Crane’s comment was unbecoming, insensitive and inappropriate for a member of the United States House of Representatives,” the CBC said in a statement Friday. “It shatters symbols of racism and proves that in 2023, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, who struck down affirmative action in their majority ruling, do not live in a color-blind society.
Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the first African-American to lead a party in Congress, called Crane an “unfortunate statement.”
“His words were taken down, and that’s right,” Jeffries said during his weekly news conference.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy told CBS News Crane’s comments were “not acceptable.”
“I accept that he was wrong,” McCarthy said. “I’ve never heard of him using it, so you’ll have to ask him about it.”
The House added Crane’s amendment to the national security authorization bill in a 214-210 vote late Thursday. The House passed the defense policy bill on Friday, but the Senate is not expected to take up the House version. Crane was one of four Republicans who did not support the final bill.