Oct 10, 2020
Lindsey Graham vs. Jaime Harrison Debate Forum October 9
Jaime Harrison and Senator Lindsey Graham held a forum, after the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement over COVID-19 testing. Graham took heat for saying black people can “go anywhere” in South Carolina but they “just need to be conservative.” Read the transcript of the conversation here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
But right now, we’re going to go to Spartanburg and join Amy Wood. WSPA-TV. [crosstalk 00:00:05].
Lindsey Graham: (00:07)
Focused on the needs of the United States.
Speaker 2: (00:07)
And challenger Jamie Harrison.
Jamie Harrison: (00:09)
And I’ll fight for you as hard as I would for my family.
Speaker 2: (00:13)
Tonight, a live discussion on the issues important to you, the pandemic, the economy, education. From your local election headquarters, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and Nexstar Media, the U.S. Senate Race South Carolina, a live candidate conversation.
Amy Wood: (00:32)
And good evening and thank you for joining us tonight. We are coming to you live from the WSPA-TV studios in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I’m Amy Wood, evening anchor at WSPA, and tonight’s conversation will be live streamed and broadcast on our Nexstar network across the Carolinas, as well as our partner station WLTX in Columbia. Many of you turned in this evening to watch the candidates for U.S. Senate in their second debate. Both campaigns agreed to the format of that debate, but this week, campaign staff for Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison asked that the incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham be tested for COVID. The Senator was tested last Friday. In a statement released yesterday afternoon, the Harrison campaign wrote, “I cannot responsibly debate in person tomorrow night and allow politics to put my family, my campaign staff, Senator Graham’s staff, and members of the media at unnecessary risk.”
Amy Wood: (01:26)
The Graham campaign responded, “Mr. Harrison is demanding special treatment. If Mr. Harrison is not able to interact with South Carolinians on the same terms they live their lives, he should not be their Senator.” Because of this impasse, we have changed the format of the forum tonight. At the bottom of the hour, Senator Lindsey Graham will face the same panel with equal time directly following Mr. Harrison’s interview. WSPA and Nexstar Media have taken steps to provide a safe environment here tonight. This environment has been sanitized and the candidates and our panel are separated at a safe distance. Now, let’s meet our panel. From WCBD in Charleston, anchor Carolyn Murray, and WSPA anchor Gordon Dill. Gordon will ask our first question.
Gordon Dill: (02:14)
All right. Amy, thank you, and good evening, Mr. Harrison. Thank you for being here. I want to talk about your COVID precautions. As Amy said, it’s the reason we’re not having a debate tonight. You did a debate last week where you brought your own plexiglass shield with you. You had one delivered to the studios here in advance of the debate. If you’re insisting that the person you’re debating have a COVID test, what is the purpose of the plexiglass? Is that a political prop?
Jamie Harrison: (02:38)
No, it’s being safe. Listen, right now Senator Graham just this past week was in a room, in a hearing room, with two people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus, two Senators who are now quarantined at home. We have to take this thing seriously. The President of United States has been out of pocket because he has the Coronavirus. When you take a look at this and Senator Graham said that folks want special treatment. Nobody’s asking for special treatment. What we’re asking is for our senior Senator to take this seriously. He has gone to events and hasn’t worn a mask at some of those events. He sat on the White House lawn with 1000 people maskless. And so what I am saying is as someone who has a pre-existing condition, and I don’t know the conditions of all of you and your staffs and the other staffs, we need our leaders to actually lead by example.
Jamie Harrison: (03:31)
Now take a look at this. After the president announced that he had the Coronavirus, we’ve had several debates across this country since then. Vice President Pence took a Coronavirus test. Senator Cornyn just today took a Coronavirus test. Susan Collins just took a Coronavirus test and it’s because they’re being responsible because they were in meetings in which folks have had the Coronavirus. I don’t understand why Senator Graham is asking for a special treatment when all we are saying, let’s keep people safe. Because you know what? It is a five minute test. You go in, you get a swab, they swab it in your nose, and it’s less than 30 minutes and you get an answer for it.
Gordon Dill: (04:14)
But Mr. Harrison, you’re asking to represent millions of South Carolinians and you don’t know their condition either. 150,000 of them have confirmed cases of COVID. Are you not going to meet with them unless they have a COVID test?
Jamie Harrison: (04:26)
Well, listen, but this is the difference. Senator Graham and I are vying to be leaders in this state. We are also asking people to wear a mask and Senator Graham doesn’t do that as well. Let me tell you, this is some real stuff. 3,500 South Carolinians have lost their lives. 150,000 have been infected and one who lost her life was my aunt, Gladys, who died alone in a nursing home. This is impacting families in a way that we have never seen in our lives, and so what we need is somebody to be serious about this.
Jamie Harrison: (04:59)
750,000 South Carolinians have lost their job. 400,000 of them lost their healthcare as well. All we are asking is for one of the top leaders in the state to lead by example. Don’t hold rallies without a mask, make sure that you’re washing your hands, and when you’re in a forum where you’re interacting with folks after you have been in a room with two people who have contracted the Coronavirus, that you actually get a test. That’s all we’re asking. It doesn’t take a whole lot to do that and I just don’t understand why Senator Graham’s colleagues can do it, the Vice President of the United States can do it, and why he thinks he’s special enough that he can’t.
Gordon Dill: (05:38)
All right. Thank you, Mr. Harrison. Carolyn?
Carolyn Murray: (05:39)
Gordon, thank you. Continuing with the same conversation talking about COVID-19, Senator Graham has presented us with a doctor’s note indicating that he did not necessarily need to be tested. This is the same doctor who would in fact take care of you if you are in fact elected. Do you believe that that doctor’s note is sufficient?
Jamie Harrison: (06:01)
Well, I’m not sure, but I do know that Dr. Fauci just said yesterday that the White House event that started this all, the cascading event, was a super spreading event. And we all have to take this stuff seriously and I don’t believe that our Senator has. Very early on, he was in those rooms. We all read and heard Bob Woodard talk about the president and what the president said in terms of how they tried to talk down the Coronavirus initially. Senator Graham helped set up the interviews. He was actually in the room. I remember the early interviews in which he tried to talk down this as well and he said, “Well, if 50,000 people die for it, that is success.” And then if 75,000 and 100,000 or 150,000.
Jamie Harrison: (06:49)
This is something that is impacting so many people and it breaks my heart to hear the stories of folks saying that they can’t properly say goodbye to loved ones because they can’t hold their hands, they can’t be in the emergency room when their loved one is passing away. It is important that we take this stuff seriously because it’s impacting us as a society in a way that we have never seen before.
Carolyn Murray: (07:12)
Mr. Harrison, first of all, sorry for your loss. I appreciate you sharing that with us. Another quick question for you. It is about the national mask mandate. As you’ve described, the White House is now described as a hotspot. We know that dozens of people associated with the Trump campaign have tested positive for COVID-19 and many of those people were seen at large gatherings not wearing masks. The question for you is, do you believe there should be a national mask mandate?
Jamie Harrison: (07:37)
I do and I guess somebody like Mitch McConnell believes the same thing because he just recently said that he won’t go over to the White House because they have different standards as it relates to the Coronavirus. We have to take this seriously. And when we look at other nations, New Zealand is a perfect example. Nations who are almost Coronavirus-free at this point in time because they came up with a national plan for how they were going to address this, instead of saying, well, each state is different.
Jamie Harrison: (08:05)
Well, listen, we don’t have walls on the borders of our states. People get on an airplane and fly from one… My in-laws live in Utah. I live here in South Carolina. It is easy for us to get on a plane, fly there, but if I’m taking the Coronavirus with me now, not only am I impacting the people in that plane, but I’m also impacting the people in the location that I’m going, and then those people impact other folks. There are no walls on the borders of each of our United States, and so we had to come up with a comprehensive plan in order to address this and we failed to do that.
Carolyn Murray: (08:37)
Thank you, Mr. Harrison. Gordon?
Gordon Dill: (08:39)
Given how serious COVID is in your description, students all over the country have to show an immunization record to return to class. If there’s a COVID-19 vaccine, should they be required to have that to return to class?
Jamie Harrison: (08:54)
That’s a possibility and I think we’ve probably have to look at that. It’s really, really important. It’s part of the reason why we do contact tracing. It’s part of the reason why we have to be thoughtful in the process to make sure that nobody is impacted and infected by something that we are still learning so much about. And so I think, again, it’s in our best interest for us to take this as seriously as we possibly can so that we can get back to normal. But if we continue to try to be lax with how we deal with this issue, then we are going to lag behind all of the other nations that have taken positive steps forward to get the Coronavirus behind them and instead of in front of them.
Gordon Dill: (09:36)
So you would consider a national mandate for school children to get the vaccine?
Jamie Harrison: (09:39)
Well, just like we ask for kids that have flu shots as they go in, we probably have to think about the same thing.
Gordon Dill: (09:46)
What about the people who are concerned about the safety of the vaccine? What do you say to them?
Jamie Harrison: (09:51)
Well, I think at this point we need the scientists and not politicians. If you asked me, “Jamie, this is a good vaccine for me to take,” I would tell you, you don’t need to ask me. You need to ask someone who actually understands this stuff in terms of doctors and the scientists. And so if Dr. Fauci who I believe folks on all sides of the aisle and in the middle, if Dr. Fauci says that this is a reliable vaccine, something that we have tested, something that has gone through the processes that we usually have for these type of things, and we feel that it’s a good for the American people to take, I’ll take it. But I’m not going to take it if it’s Lindsey Graham telling me that I need to take it because, again, Senator Graham and I aren’t doctors, and so we need to rely upon them to give us the best advice.
Gordon Dill: (10:39)
All right. Thank you. Carolyn?
Carolyn Murray: (10:41)
Mr. Harrison, African Americans represent 27% of South Carolina’s population, but of the 3,500 people who’ve died in our state, 35% of those people were black. What will you do to ensure access to medical care and healthcare for all people in our state?
Jamie Harrison: (11:01)
Yeah. You know what the Coronavirus did was it exacerbated problems that were already here, and I remember just hearing about the Coronavirus and cringing because I knew the impact that it would have here in South Carolina, particularly on the most vulnerable communities. We live in the state where almost 250,000 people don’t have access to healthcare because we’re one of 12 states that have refused to expand Medicaid. 38 other states have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and South Carolina has failed to do so. And as a result, four of our rural hospitals in this state have closed and we’re seeing that same type of trend in the other states that refuse to expand Medicaid.
Jamie Harrison: (11:42)
If you live in one of those communities, and it doesn’t matter if you’re black and white, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, and you have complications with diabetes or you’re impacted by the Coronavirus or you have with a pregnancy, instead of taking you 10 or 15 minutes like it used to to get to the nearest hospital, now it takes you 25 or 35 or 45 minutes. That’s a death sentence. And what those folks are looking for, they’re not looking for a Democratic solution or a Republican solution, a solution from Jamie Harrison and one from Lindsey Graham, they’re just looking for a solution. And we have a responsibility to the people here in South Carolina that the leadership and Lindsey Graham is emblematic of it, he’s been here 25 years and failed to do so. I have gone to some of these communities that have lost their hospital and they have told me that Lindsey Graham hasn’t even shown up since they have. We can do better, particularly on health.
Jamie Harrison: (12:34)
In this state two years ago, 14 of our 46 counties had no OB/GYNs. None, zero, zilch, none. We’re in the 21st century and 14 counties in South Carolina don’t have any OB/GYNs and we’re serious about healthcare? And then we have a Senator who comes up with a healthcare plan that he thought of in a barbershop where he doesn’t protect folks with preexisting conditions, where he puts a senior tax on seniors, and he block grants the money and reduces the amount of money. Let’s be serious about healthcare and it doesn’t have to be a partisan thing. Let us be focused on the health of every single South Carolinian and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to fight to expand Medicaid. I’m going to fight to strengthen the Affordable Care Act so that every person can have healthcare, whether it’s given to them by their employer or because they go into some type of public option.
Carolyn Murray: (13:30)
Mr. Harrison, I’d also like to talk to you about the stimulus relief package. Just this week, negotiations broke down to provide a second round of relief to families and businesses affected by COVID-19. Well now that the first round has expired, people are losing their jobs, they’re losing their healthcare, they’re losing their businesses. How would you work beyond the aisle, across the aisle, and foster bipartisan support to pass something to help not only the nation’s families, but families right here in your beloved community?
Carolyn Murray: (14:03)
… only the nation’s families, but families right here in your beloved community of South Carolina.
Jamie Harrison: (14:05)
Yeah. Thank you for that question. It breaks my heart to talk to small business owners and folks, those who are on unemployment right now and desperately needed that federal unemployment benefit. Again, I said 750,000 South Carolinians have lost their job as a result of this coronavirus and many of them lost their healthcare as well. And, our Senator, Senator Graham said, “Over his dead body or over our dead bodies, will he allow an extension of the unemployment benefit.” Yet as a result, because the benefit ran out in August, there are so many folks who are on the verge of being kicked out of their homes. They’re on the verge of not being able to pay their bills. And our Senator who is so out of touch didn’t understand why it was important to continue that benefit. That benefit brought $20-some-odd million into the South Carolina’s economy every week. Every week.
Jamie Harrison: (14:57)
So not only did it benefit the families, but it also benefited the small businesses that are on the verge of closing. South Carolina, I don’t know if folks know this, South Carolina is ranked 50th in the nation, as it relates to PPP dollars per worker. That means 49 other states are getting more money for their small businesses to stay open than South Carolina did. And so for me, in the end of the day, this is about what can we do to improve the state, not about Washington politics. And so I’ll work with anybody who is looking forward to trying to build progress. And that means staying in session. Lindsey Graham and the Senate went out of session for vacation in August. And it means we need to stay in session and get it done. And I wish the Senator would take the urgency he has for the Supreme Court nomination to put that into actually doing a bill to address the needs of the folks in South Carolina on coronavirus.
Carolyn Murray: (15:55)
Gordon Dill: (15:55)
Well, it’s convenient, Mr. Harrison, you mentioned the Supreme Court. That’s our next topic. I know you want to talk about the process of confirmation. But before you do that, is Amy Coney-Barrett qualified to serve as a justice on the US Supreme Court?
Jamie Harrison: (16:10)
Well, she’s … I mean, she was qualified to be in terms of the district court. And so, but I would need to ask her some questions to find out where she stands on certain issues, particularly in terms of the civil rights that have been gained in this country for so many groups. And so hopefully, those questions will be asked of her in her confirmation hearings. But we shouldn’t even be talking about confirmation hearings right now if we would listen to Lindsey Graham and followed his word. Lindsey Graham said that, he said, “Use my words against me. We should not be considering a justice in the fourth year, in an election year.” And that he would not vote for it, such justice. I learned, and I think many of us learned here in South Carolina that a man and a woman are as good as their word. And what is the word of Lindsey Graham worth?
Gordon Dill: (17:03)
Well, what is your position then? Do you have a rule you follow on when it is and is not appropriate to confirm a president’s nomination?
Jamie Harrison: (17:10)
Well, my rule is the precedent in the standards of the United States Senate. In 2016, the rule was that you should, whenever a president nominees, it should be considered. Then Lindsey Graham and others changed that rule and set a new precedent. And now he is going against his word and the precedent that was set. So, in essence, so if this is a new precedent, then I’m going to follow this new precedent. But if we’re going to be a nation of laws and rules, then let’s follow those rules. Yeah, I said the other night, it almost feels like I’m playing monopoly with my six-year-old son, that you change the rules whenever it benefits you. And that’s not the way that this country needs to run. And so I’m going to always follow the rules. People will always know, even if they don’t agree with me, they will always know that I’m going to tell them the truth. I’m not going to waffle one way or the other. I’m going to be straightforward and tell them the truth.
Gordon Dill: (18:04)
Speaking of the rules, let’s talk about criminal justice. I want to read something you posted on Twitter. You wrote, “Just as slavery was ended, we can end the epidemic of police brutality in this country and root out the systemic racism that oppresses communities of color across South Carolina.” Are you saying police brutality is as pervasive in the South as slavery once was? And if you’re suggesting a legislative solution to end police brutality, exactly what is it?
Jamie Harrison: (18:31)
Let me tell you. I grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina. And one of the very first stories that I heard as I started learning more about the civil rights movement and what went on in my hometown was about the Orangeburg Massacre. When three college students who were protesting a segregated, bowling alley, and a bunch of other kids on the campuses of both South Carolina State and Claflin University were protesting because they wanted to desegregate that bowling alley, and they went marching. And three of those students lost their lives that night. None of them had guns. None of them had weapons, but they were marching for equality. And they were killed by members of law enforcement. Now, those members of law enforcement actually went to trial, but nobody went to jail. Nobody did. So imagine growing up in a community where that is the legacy. Imagine being an African-American man who’s has heard all his life the horror stories about how folks have been brutalized and beaten and how the criminal justice system hasn’t been fair and not just. That’s the reality of so many people in this state.
Jamie Harrison: (19:44)
Is that saying that all police are bad? No. I have police officers in my family. My grandpa, Ron, on my stepdad’s side had been in the police force over 30 years. I’ve talked to him. We all feared about him leaving each day and coming back home at night. But what we’re seeing is there’s some bad apples in the system that need to be rooted out, that we need to bring accountability to the system so that every community, whether it’s a black community, a white community, or Latino community, every community can feel as though their police are there to protect and serve them. And that’s what we need to do.
Gordon Dill: (20:18)
And what is your legislative solution?
Jamie Harrison: (20:19)
Well, part of the solution is coming up with a register so that we know of those bad police officers, so that somebody who commits atrocities in Chicago can’t come down to Spartanburg County and get a job as a deputy sheriff. Some of that is getting rid of … Having a national force of standard, a standard of force, so that we know, whether you are in Chicago or whether you are in South Carolina, we know what the standards are in terms of how you use force and what type of force that you can use. Some of that is let’s demilitarize our police so that we can rebuild the faith between our communities and the police officers.
Jamie Harrison: (21:01)
We understand the importance of policing. And I don’t believe in this trend of defunding the police. I don’t believe in that because police have such an important role in our communities. But what I do believe is bringing more accountability into that system in order to make sure that folks have trust, that when they call on the police officers, they don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re going to have their lives.
Gordon Dill: (21:25)
All right. Thank you. Carolyn.
Carolyn Murray: (21:26)
Thank you. Mr. Harrison, we are continuing our discussion about civil unrest. Social change in this country has come about when women and racial and ethnic minorities have marched and protested. We’ve certainly seen that a lot this past year. Describe legislation that you would push forward to ensure the rights of organizations are met. And have you met with members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and what kind of legislation have they described they want, and what have they expressed as their concerns?
Jamie Harrison: (21:57)
Yeah. I know folks in the Black Lives Matter movement. I have not met officially with anybody in terms of the organization. And I know a number of the folks in the movement here in South Carolina. And many of them-
Carolyn Murray: (22:08)
Why have you not met with them?
Jamie Harrison: (22:11)
They haven’t asked for me.
Carolyn Murray: (22:12)
Did you feel it was important to reach out to them because their presence has been so visible this year?
Jamie Harrison: (22:20)
Well, many of the folks here in South Carolina that are involved, I know personally and we’ve worked together on other things. And what they’re pushing for is, again, I don’t believe in the defunding the police effort. But I do believe in strengthening the relationship between the police and the communities, more community-based policing, making sure that we also bring in other professionals that can help alleviate some of the pressure and some of the tension, bringing in psychologists, bringing in drug addiction counselors and those types of folks to help address the situations in our communities. And I think that’s really, really important. I’ve also talked with a few members in the police forces about things that they believe can work as well. And so, I believe I can be one of those people that will bring both our policing forces and our community organizations together to sit at a table and come up with solutions that work for South Carolina.
Carolyn Murray: (23:25)
Thank you, Mr. Harrison.
Jamie Harrison: (23:25)
Carolyn Murray: (23:25)
Gordon Dill: (23:26)
So if the Supreme Court were to strike down the Affordable Care Act, what exactly is the plan to replace it?
Jamie Harrison: (23:32)
Well, if I’m in the United States Senate, we are going to find a way to replace it because if the Supreme Court does strike down the ACA, that means in the midst of a pandemic that is only going to get worse between now because we’re in flu season as well, and we are seeing spikes. Dr. Fauci said yesterday, he wants 10,000 new cases a day, but we’re seeing 40,000 new cases a day in this country. So we’re in the midst of a pandemic and Lindsey Graham supports the court to strike this down. The question is, what are we going to do then, for those 23 million people who do not have health care? We’re going to have to find some way to make sure that happens or otherwise, we are going to create even a greater pandemic and a greater tragedy and crisis in this country.
Jamie Harrison: (24:18)
Again, I believe in the ACA. I believe coming up, using it as a public option, strengthening it by including mental, and vision, and dental health as well. But we will be in a fix as a nation if that law is struck down by the Supreme Court. And it said that Lindsey Graham supports that effort.
Gordon Dill: (24:38)
All right. Thank you. We have one minute left. Carolyn.
Carolyn Murray: (24:40)
Gordon, thank you. Mr. Harrison, sorry that we are short on time, but we would like you to answer the question about your concerns and of restrictions on abortions. Describe what you believe are appropriate restrictions on abortions.
Jamie Harrison: (24:54)
Well, for me, I’m pro-choice. But in the end of the day, I believe the issue of abortion is a hard issue. It’s a difficult issue. It’s one that we … It’s a painful one to even think about and talk about. But in the end of the day, I believe it’s between a woman, her doctor, and her God. I don’t believe politicians have a role in that. And I’m a firm believer in that. Now, what we can have a role in is making sure we address some of these issues that are impacting women and the health of their babies. The infant mortality rate here in South Carolina is in the top 10. The fact that I stated earlier that 14 of our 46 counties had no OB/GYNs, that we have a Senator who has is proposing a healthcare system-
Carolyn Murray: (25:39)
Thank you very much.
Jamie Harrison: (25:39)
Carolyn Murray: (25:40)
Thank you, Mr. Harrison. We appreciate your time.
Jamie Harrison: (25:41)
One minute. I’m sorry.
Carolyn Murray: (25:42)
Gordon Dill: (25:42)
We did want to give you the promised one minute for a closing statement.
Jamie Harrison: (25:46)
Well, thank you all for doing this again, and I wish you and your families all health and for all of yours here today. Listen, in the end of this campaign as I’ve been saying, I’ve lived the American dream. I grew up in a mobile home and I’m now running for United States Senate. That only happens in America. Our state motto, “While I breathe, I hope,” is my life. It’s the motto of my life. But what I want in this campaign, and what I hope is, that I’ve inspired folks. Lindsey Graham is going to scare you. He’s going to scare you about crime. He’s going to scare you about everything. But we’re tired of being scared in this country. We are tired of being scared in this state. It’s time for us to come together as a people. And I hope through my campaign, a campaign that is built on hope that folks will see that and say that it’s time for a new day.
Amy Wood: (26:35)
Mr. Harrison, thank you again for joining us tonight. We appreciate it. Keep it here. Don’t move. We have more to come. We will speak with Senator Lindsey Graham when we come back right after a short break.
Speaker 2: (26:45)
It’s one of the country’s most important Senate races. Incumbent Lindsey Graham-
Lindsey Graham: (26:49)
I’m going to be being focused on the needs of the United States.
Speaker 2: (26:52)
… and challenger, Jamie Harrison.
Jamie Harrison: (26:54)
I’ll fight for you as hard as I would for my family.
Speaker 2: (26:57)
Tonight, a live discussion on the issues important to you, the pandemic, the economy, education. From your local election headquarters, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and Nexstar media, the US Senate Race, South Carolina, a live candidate conversation.
Amy Wood: (27:16)
And once again, good evening and thank you for joining us. We are coming to you live from the WSPA TV studios in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I’m Amy Wood, evening anchor here at WSPA. Tonight’s conversation will be live-streamed and broadcast on our Nexstar network across the Carolinas, as well as our partner station WLTX in Columbia. Many of you tuned in this evening to watch the candidates for US Senate in their second debate. Both campaigns agreed to the format of that debate. This week, campaign staff for Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison asked that incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham take a COVID test. The Senator was tested last Friday. In a statement released yesterday afternoon, the Harrison campaign wrote, “I cannot responsibly debate in person tomorrow night and allow politics to put my family, my campaign-
Amy Wood: (28:03)
… person tomorrow night and allow politics to put my family, my campaign staff, Senator Graham’s staff, and members of the media at unnecessary risk. The Graham campaign responded. “Mr. Harrison is demanding special treatment. If Mr. Harrison is not able to interact with South Carolinians on the same terms that they live their lives, he should not be their Senator.” Now because of this impasse, we have changed the format for this forum tonight. At the top of the hour, Mr. Harrison joined us for half an hour of uninterrupted questions from our panel. Now, Senator Graham will face that same panel with equal time. WSPA and Nexstar Media have taken steps to provide a safe environment tonight. The environment has been sanitized and the candidates and our panel are separated at a safe distance. Now let’s meet that panel. WCBD from Charleston, Anchor Carolyn Murray, and WSPA Anchor Gordon Dill. Gordon will ask the first question.
Gordon Dill: (28:57)
All right, Amy. Thank you. And good evening, Senator. Thank you for being here. Starting on Monday, you will chair a committee to confirm a new Supreme Court justice. You’ll be inside a hearing room for hours at a time, several days of the week, with some of America’s top elected leadership. Is it not appropriate for you to take a coronavirus test in advance of that hearing?
Lindsey Graham: (29:20)
Well, number one, I am the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that’s about to confirm the most highly qualified woman I think ever nominated by the Republican party. I’m extremely proud of it. We’re setting the hearing room up based on CDC guidelines. I just got a statement today from the architect of the Capitol who consulted with the House physician saying that the room is set up in a compliant way. But here’s what’s important. How many of you are going to go to work tomorrow? How many of you will be around people tomorrow? If you’re a waitress and you go to the restaurant to earn your living, are you going to require of your employer that everybody be tested that comes into the restaurant? Are you going to require that all your coworkers be tested whether they need to or not? You can’t make that requirement. If you did, it would break our economy.
Lindsey Graham: (30:08)
So we’re going to run the hearing in a medically compliant way, but I’m not going to live my life differently than you have to live yours. To those of you who work for a living, you can’t do what Mr. Harrison has demanded tonight. You can’t not show up at work because you want everybody tested whether they need to or not. I’ve got a letter from my doctor saying that I am CDC compliant, there’s no reason to test me. So this is not about testing. This is about political accountability. And the great loss tonight was a debate. I do a lot of interviews.
Lindsey Graham: (30:40)
I was looking forward to debating Mr. Harrison about would you vote for Amy Barrett? She’s highly qualified. I voted for Sotomayer and Kagan, nominees presented to the Senate by Barack Obama. I saw in them qualified women that I would not have chosen, but understood President Obama had that right. Mr. Harrison, when it came time for President Trump to nominate Neil Gorsuch, highly qualified, joined into the effort to filibuster that nomination. Mr. Harrison said, “Bring out the cots.” He joined in with Chuck Schumer to engage in the first partisan filibuster in the history of the United States Senate. The rules changed under Schumer and Reid, not me. I voted against changing the rules, had to change them for Justice Gorsuch.
Lindsey Graham: (31:25)
But here’s the last thing about judges. I voted for Sotomayer and Kagan and everybody applauded, every liberal in the country. Oh, “We love Lindsey Graham.” Then I watched the destruction of Brett Kavanaugh, one of the most decent people I’ve known in my entire life. I stood up and stood by him. Now there’s $50 million coming in in the last three months alone to take me out. I stood up for Kavanaugh. I got in the way of destroying his life. And Mr. Harrison cheered on the destruction of Brett Kavanaugh. I voted for Democratic judicial nominees. He joined Schumer in opposing Trump nominees. And I guarantee there’s no way in God’s green earth he’d ever vote for Barrett. And that’s important to the voters of South Carolina. If you’re looking for somebody to support conservative judges, I’m your guy. If you’re looking for somebody to reach across the aisle, I have done it.
Gordon Dill: (32:14)
Let’s ask about that confirmation process. I do want to play a piece of sound, a recording from something you said a short time ago, if we can play that.
Lindsey Graham: (32:25)
If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.
Gordon Dill: (32:35)
You said that, Senator, in 2018. The question is, how do people know the things you’re saying tonight won’t change when it is politically convenient for you or your party?
Lindsey Graham: (32:46)
Well, Gordon, I appreciate that question. In January 2019, I was asked, after the Kavanaugh debacle, what would you do if there’s an opening? I said I would see what the market will bear. And August of this year, I was asked by NBC, “If there’s an opening on the Supreme Court, what would you do?” We’ll see what the market bears. I am going to lead the charge to confirm Judge Amy Barrett the court. And I can tell you this. If Chuck Schumer and Democrats were in charge, they’d be doing the same thing. We’ve had 19 nominations in an election year. 17 of the 19 have been confirmed when the president is of the same party as the Senate.
Lindsey Graham: (33:26)
Here’s the thing for me. When it comes to Democratic judges, I gave them a fair shake and I voted for them. When it comes to Republican judges, my Democratic colleagues want to destroy them. Thomas, Bork, Alito, now Kavanaugh. I am hoping that this hearing doesn’t turn into the Kavanaugh debacle. I’m hoping that Amy Barrett gets treated with respect the way I treated Sotomayer and Kagan. We’re moving forward. We’re doing nothing unusual here in terms of how the Senate operates.
Gordon Dill: (33:55)
All right. Thank you. Carolyn. Thank you, Gordon.
Carolyn Murray: (33:58)
Senator, thank you for being with us tonight. We appreciate your time. Senator, the White House has been described as a coronavirus hotspot, dozens of people associated with the president’s campaign have tested positive for COVID-19. And many of those people were seen at large gatherings and they were not wearing masks. So my question to you is do you believe in a national mask mandate?
Lindsey Graham: (34:21)
I believe that everybody should wear a mask, you should wash your hands, and you should socially distance. This is a deadly disease.
Carolyn Murray: (34:29)
And do you believe there should be a national mask mandate?
Lindsey Graham: (34:33)
I don’t know how you enforce it. Who enforces it? Does the FBI follow us all around? I believe in responsibility. So the idea of wearing a mask, count me in. In terms of a national mandate, I don’t know how that works. But if you’re looking for my advice, wear a mask, wash your hands. We will get through this. A vaccine, I think, is near. The drug therapies that got President Trump back on his feet are going to be available to all of us. I’m encouraged by the fact that we will defeat this virus sooner rather than later.
Lindsey Graham: (35:06)
But this election is not about just the virus. What happens if the Democrats take over the Senate, they get the House and the White House? The most radical political agenda in American history comes our way. Is there a difference between the Democratic and Republican party? Absolutely. Is bipartisanship good? Yes. But let me tell you a big difference in this race. If the Republican party can hold the Senate, I’m in line to be the budget chairman. If the Democratic party takes back the Senate, the budget chairman will be Bernie Sanders. So I want you to understand what I just said. If the Democrats take over the Senate an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, will be writing the budget for the United States. If the Republican party keeps the Senate and I’m in it, I’ll be the budget chairman. There’s a big difference between me and Bernie Sanders when it comes to your money. Vote for me.
Carolyn Murray: (36:01)
Thank you, Senator. We appreciate it. Gordon.
Gordon Dill: (36:03)
Yeah, we do want to stay on this topic of COVID though. We may have heard your opponent say he would consider requiring students returning to class to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Is that something you would support?
Lindsey Graham: (36:16)
If we get a vaccine, I’ll be the first one to take it once it’s FDA approved. But my job is to be a Senator for our state. In Washington, to be our voice in Washington, we have a superintendent of education, Molly Spearman, who I trust. We have a governor who I trust and I like. So when it comes to COVID, let’s push as hard as we can to get a vaccine to get this virus behind us. It has been deadly. It has been tough on our economy. I want another stimulus package. I think we need another $1,200 per person to help. I want money-
Gordon Dill: (36:51)
Senator, we’re planning to ask you about the stimulus package. In fact, it’s-
Lindsey Graham: (36:55)
As far as the vaccine-
Gordon Dill: (36:56)
About the vaccine, should it be required for students returning to school?
Lindsey Graham: (37:00)
I think that’s up to South Carolina. I think that’s up to the people of South Carolina. I’m not running for governor. I’m running for United States Senate. I understand the 10th amendment. I trust Molly Spearman. She won the right to make education policy. I am trying to win the right to make national security policy, to make economic policy at the national level, to reject the largest tax increase in American history if my Democratic colleagues take over the House and Senate and the White House. They’re going to change America as we know it today. They’re going to expand the court beyond nine to pack it with liberals just as sure as I’m sitting here. They’re going to do away the electoral college. Now, what does that mean to us, Gordon? Well, our voice is lost. You pick the president based on New York and California. Our founding fathers wanted states like South Carolina to have a voice. So the difference between the agendas is incredibly important. Bernie Sanders as budget chairman versus Lindsey Graham. I can go on and on. Liberal judges versus conservative judges.
Gordon Dill: (37:59)
All right, thank you. Carolyn.
Carolyn Murray: (38:00)
Gordon, Senator Graham, just this week, negotiations broke down to provide a second round of relief to families and businesses impacted because of the coronavirus. Well, now that that first round has expired, a lot of people are losing jobs, they’re losing their healthcare, they’re losing their homes. You were talking about providing relief. How will you do that? How will you reach across the aisle to ensure bipartisan support to help families who are struggling and desperate for relief right now?
Lindsey Graham: (38:32)
By voting for a package that will make a difference. I voted for phase three. It passed the Senate unanimously. It was a trillion dollars. I’m willing to do almost two trillion. I want the money to help the problem. The Chamber is one of the sponsors of what would have been a debate, now is a conversation. My family ran a restaurant, a liquor store, a bar, and a pool room in central South Carolina. I grew up in the back. What a great country. You can go from the back of the bar to being a Senator. But I want to give liability protection to every business in South Carolina who plays by the rules. If you’ll do what’s required of your business, I don’t want you to be sued because of COVID.
Lindsey Graham: (39:13)
My Democratic colleagues will not agree with that. I’m for a $1,200 check. I’m for hundreds of billions of dollars to help our schools safely allow our kids to go back. I’m for PPP. I just got back from Myrtle Beach in Charleston. The tourism industry is on its back. It was a tough summer. Nobody’s traveling now. The golf courses are not being run at all. The hotels, occupancy is down. Another round of loans for businesses that are struggling, count me in. I just talked to the president at lunch. I’ve been on the phone with Secretary Mnuchin. I am excited that Pelosi and Mnuchin are talking again. Count me in for another stimulus package, but we have to have liability protection so our businesses are not sued out of existence.
Carolyn Murray: (39:56)
Thank you, Senator. Gordon.
Gordon Dill: (39:58)
Our next topic, Senator, is criminal justice. In the debate last week, you said you did not believe there was systemic racism in our law enforcement. So the question is, as a Congress, what legislation can protect Americans from police brutality?
Lindsey Graham: (40:14)
So, number one, let me say this. Reform the police, yes. What happened to Mr. Floyd was wrong and people should pay a price. But what’s happening in America and all over the country is a war on the police itself. There are some bad cops out there. I’ve been a prosecutor, I’ve been a defense attorney, I’ve been a military judge. Count me in the camp of reforming the police, but having the cops’ back. I’ve been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of the Police because they see in me an ally. I voted for criminal justice reform to make sure that African-American males and Hispanic males mostly who’ve been sentenced to long times in jail for nonviolent offenses can get a second chance. Tim Scott, my dear friend and partner here in South Carolina, produced a police reform bill that was bi-partisan and Chuck Schumer stopped it from coming to the floor.
Lindsey Graham: (41:08)
They said no to Tim Scott’s effort to find a solution to police reform, transparency, more money for diversity, hiring more minority police officers. It was stopped because they want the issue, they don’t want to solve the problem. That breaks my heart. And Jamie Harrison, my opponent, supported the Nancy Pelosi version of police reform and said no to the Tim Scott version of police reform. He will pick Pelosi over Tim Scott every time. He will go with Schumer when it comes to judges. And that’s what’s on the ballot here, folks. Count me in for reforming the police. Tim Scott had a plan that was blocked by Democrats. The Nancy Pelosi plan will cripple the police. So Mr. Harrison had a chance to weigh in and be bi-partisan. He chose Pelosi over Tim Scott. I did not.
Gordon Dill: (41:57)
Thank you, sir. Carolyn.
Carolyn Murray: (41:59)
Senator Graham, our next subject is the issue of civil unrest in this-
Carolyn Murray: (42:03)
… Graham, our next subject is the issue of civil unrest in this country. Social change in this country has come about when women and racial minorities have marched and protested. Sometimes that’s resulted in rioting. Certainly, no one supports lawlessness. You have said in the past that you support Black Lives Matter. Have you met with members of that organization, first of all?
Lindsey Graham: (42:25)
I met with pastors, I met with people in the African American community, and here are the facts, that I believe our cops are systemically racist, no doubt, I believe that South Carolina is a racist state. Now, let me tell you why. To young people out there of color, to young immigrants, this is a great state. The one thing I can say without any doubt, you can be an African American and go to the Senate. You just have to share the values of our state. Tim Scott is in the Senate. He’s the only African American Republican in the country. Nikki Haley is a daughter of Indian immigrants raised in Denmark, South Carolina. She became a governor. In South Carolina, folks, it’s not about the color of your skin or where you came from. It’s about your ideas.
Lindsey Graham: (43:08)
The reason I’m going to win this race is because my ideas, my conservative philosophy, my willingness to reach across the aisle fits our state. I am in line with Tim Scott and Nikki Haley. My opponent’s going to lose not because of race, but because he’s aligned with the most liberal people in the country. He’s raising $50 million from liberals all over the country to flip this state into the democratic column. It’s not going to work.
Lindsey Graham: (43:34)
Count me in for reforming the police. I voted for the First Step Act that gave African American males and Hispanic males who’ve been in prison under the Joe Biden “three strikes, you’re out” bill. President Trump led the way. I worked with Cory Booker. There are a lot of people getting out of jail who were sentenced to long terms in jail for nonviolent offenses. They can go back to their families. They can get a job.
Lindsey Graham: (43:57)
31% of our state is African American. I’m asking to every African-American out there, look at my record. I’ve been supporting, historically, black colleges and universities, and I’m glad president Trump has made it a permanent fixture. Now we don’t have to beg every year for the money. I care about everybody. If you’re a young African American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state. You just need to be conservative, not liberal.
Carolyn Murray: (44:23)
Mr. Senator Graham, I would just like to talk about that a little bit more, if you could explain yourself. You say that you don’t believe that there is systemic racism, but you named two people who are elected officials, former Governor Nikki Haley, as well as Senator Tim Scott. Do you think that there is a problem that you’re still able to only name so few people of color when it comes to people who’ve had marked success in their careers, in their lives-
Lindsey Graham: (44:50)
Carolyn Murray: (44:50)
… that perhaps there is a problem-
Lindsey Graham: (44:52)
Carolyn Murray: (44:53)
… when you can only name so few?
Lindsey Graham: (44:54)
Here’s the problem. I think naming Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, our national leaders in the Republican Party, I consider this a proud moment for South Carolina, not just for the Republican Party. Tim Scott has tried to reform the police. Tim Scott gets called names you would not believe. All I can say when it comes to South Carolina, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can go as far as you want to go if you have values associated with our state.
Lindsey Graham: (45:24)
Here’s the problem. Tim Scott’s been stopped six or seven times on Capitol Hill by the police. I never have, and I want to deal with that. I want more police officers from the community. I want to make sure that we have transparency in policing. I want more body cameras. I want to recruit more people. I want to involve deescalation training. I want the police to be well-equipped to deal with the problems they have, but you have no idea what it’s like to be a cop now.
Lindsey Graham: (45:58)
I’ve talked to the police officers all over the state. They feel abandoned. They feel like they’re the bad guy. I am not going to be part of that movement. I am not going to empower what I think is an assault on law and order with me. You will get reformed, but I’m not going to abandon the cops. With me, I will stand up to the mobs.
Carolyn Murray: (46:17)
Senator Graham, thank you. We’d like you to take a look at a video question. This question regards the rights of LGBTQ. Take a listen.
Louis Yuhasz: (46:27)
Hey, I’m Louis Yuhasz, and I have a question for the candidates. My partner and I have been married for five years, and we’ve been together for 22. What will the candidates do to ensure our rights are protected, the rights of gay people married in the State of South Carolina?
Lindsey Graham: (46:45)
Good question. The law of the land by the Supreme Court is that same-sex marriage is now legal. I accept that. I accept that ruling. We’re a conservative state. There are a lot of religious people around this state who believe in traditional marriage. They’re not bigots. They’re not Neanderthals for believing in that, but this man under our law has a right to his relationship. I will honor the law of the land. I have tried to be tolerant. I’ve tried to understand that people have different life experiences. I do. I’m not a woman. I’m not a person of color. I listen, but I can tell you right now when it comes to South Carolina, I think I’ve been an effective voice for who we are, and to the gentlemen, the law of the land is that same-sex marriage is legal, and we will honor that.
Carolyn Murray: (47:32)
Thank you, senator. [crosstalk 00:47:34]-
Gordon Dill: (47:34)
Let’s talk about the Affordable Care Act, senator. If the Supreme Court is to strike down the ACA, Republicans have promised for years to repeal and replace. Where is the replace?
Lindsey Graham: (47:46)
It’s Graham-Cassidy. Can I talk to you a little bit about Obamacare? Obamacare in South Carolina has been a disaster. You were promised if you like your doctor, you can keep it. We had five choices under Obamacare. We’re down to one. Premiums have gone up 30%. For a while, I was on Obamacare. My premiums went up 300%. My coverage almost was non-existent.
Lindsey Graham: (48:06)
Obamacare, three states get 35% of Obamacare dollars. They’re California, New York, and Massachusetts. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren. They’re 22% of the population. What would I like to do? I’d like to make sure that if you’re in Spartanburg, you get the same amount of money from the federal government is if you lived in San Francisco. That would be a almost a billion dollar increase for us. Level out the funding, send the money to the state directly, bypass the Washington bureaucrat you’ll never meet, put our local officials in charge of healthcare, allow our doctors and hospitals to talk with you, the patient, in your own backyard.
Lindsey Graham: (48:44)
The reason liberals hate my idea is because I’m trying to get money and power out of Washington back here at home. Their goal of single-payer healthcare, I think, will reduce quality, increase cost. My goal with Obamacare is to make sure we don’t send a billion dollars to New York, California, Massachusetts. We control the money, and we make the decision.
Gordon Dill: (49:03)
There’s 150,000 South Carolinians with a confirmed case of COVID. That’s a preexisting condition. They may lose the ability to buy healthcare without ACA.
Lindsey Graham: (49:13)
Absolutely. Look at Graham-Cassidy. We send the money back to South Carolina, we get almost a billion dollars more under my bill than Obamacare gives us. We get to manage the money here at home. Local politicians are in charge. If you don’t like what they’re doing, you can vote them out. A bureaucrat in Washington could care less about us. Pre-existing conditions is required under the Graham-Cassidy bill.
Lindsey Graham: (49:36)
My mom died when I was 21. My dad died when I was 22. We went broke because we were under-insured. When my parents died, my sister was 13. We got a Social Security survivor benefit check of about 300 bucks for my sister, Darlene. We moved in with an aunt and uncle that worked in the textile mills in South Carolina and never made it over 25 or $30,000. I get it. We’re all one car wreck away from needing help.
Lindsey Graham: (50:01)
We’re not going to take your pre-existing conditions away from anybody. That makes no sense. What I’m trying to do is get the money and the power out of Washington back here at home because our liberal friends are going to put all of our healthcare under the federal government umbrella.
Carolyn Murray: (50:17)
Lindsey Graham: (50:17)
That is not the way to go, folks.
Gordon Dill: (50:19)
Thank you, senator. Carolyn?
Carolyn Murray: (50:20)
Senator Graham, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level for all Americans. Do you support changes to federal marijuana laws, including legalization, decriminalization, as well as medicinal use? We’re trying to get into a few more questions if you could make your own question as brief as possible.
Lindsey Graham: (50:36)
No, ma’am, I do not. I’ve been a prosecutor, defense attorney, and a judge. Marijuana can be a very dangerous drug, particularly for young people, but I do support medical marijuana. I am convinced that there are medical purposes associated with marijuana, and I’d be willing to make that exception.
Carolyn Murray: (50:52)
Despite the fact that 70% Americans say that they’ve used marijuana, there are polls that show that people believe that marijuana could and should be used for recreational use?
Lindsey Graham: (51:03)
I’m in the 30% that says it’s not a good idea. I’ve seen the effects. It’s a gateway drug to other things. When it comes to medical marijuana, it makes sense. When it comes to legalization, I’m not going to impose that on the people of South Carolina.
Gordon Dill: (51:16)
We only have a minute before we get to your closing here, so quickly, there has been some criticism from the president about mail-in absentee ballots, whether they will be safe or not. Your voters, do you encourage them to vote by mail?
Lindsey Graham: (51:29)
Yes. If you want to vote by mail, do it. Call up, let them know you want to absentee ballot. There’ll be a record of the transaction, but voting by mail where everybody in the country gets a ballot whether you want one or not is a disaster. In Minneapolis, they had a guy with 300-something ballots in his car. Voting by mail in South Carolina is safe. Absentee voting is safe in South Carolina. There’s a record here. I want a fair election. I want everybody to vote, but this idea, that liberal dream of just mailing out ballots and hope people get it, about harvesting, I think is a threat to our democracy.
Gordon Dill: (52:03)
Thank you, senator.
Carolyn Murray: (52:03)
All right, one final question, and certainly, this was something that was certainly a compelling time in our community. Nine members of Emanuel AME Church were gunned down by a gunman who was able to purchase a gun because of the Charleston loophole. I apologize. We are out of time. Thank you so much, Senator Graham, for being with us.
Gordon Dill: (52:23)
We did promise you one minute as a closing statement. Go ahead.
Lindsey Graham: (52:27)
Big choice, election. Mr. Harrison is the associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He’s a great spokesman for their cause. I’m a conservative Republican who reaches across the aisle with a record to prove it. I’m the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I will fight for conservative judges. A lot’s on the ballot, law and order versus the mob and chaos, conservative judges versus liberal judges, free enterprise versus Bernie Sanders being in charge of your budget. I love South Carolina. It is my home. It is the best place in the world to raise children and to start a business as long. As I’m your Senator, I intend to keep it that way.
Amy Wood: (53:12)
All right. Thank you so much, Senator Graham, for being with us tonight in Spartanburg. A reminder, absentee voting is underway across the state of South Carolina. Thanks for watching and have a good night.
Speaker 3: (53:23)
All right, that is going to conclude this candidate forum coming your way from the studios of WSPA in Spartanburg. Both Jaime Harrison, the challenger, and the incumbent Lindsey Graham given a number of questions over the last hour or so. First question for both candidates tonight was about the virus, Jaime Harrison saying he supports the national mask mandate while Lindsey Graham says everybody should be wearing a mask, but it would be hard to enforce some sort of national mask mandate.
Speaker 3: (53:55)
When it came to the subject of a vaccine, Jaime Harrison said if the health expert said to take it, he would, but not as Senator Graham said to do so. Senator Graham simply said that a vaccine is near closer than we think right now. Harrison was also asked about the Supreme Court hearing coming up on Monday, was asked if Amy Coney Barrett was qualified for the Supreme Court. He really didn’t give an answer on that per se. He didn’t say if she was qualified for that position. Senator Graham says he is leading next week’s confirmation hearing. It will meet CDC guidelines, and he will lead the charge to confirm Amy Coney Barrett.
Speaker 3: (54:34)
As far as police reform in the United States is concerned, Harrison saying that not all cops are bad and Senator Graham echoing that as well saying that he’s talked with some cops who say they feel abandoned. Harrison says he has not met with members of Black Lives Matter but he said he knows members of that as far as the civil unrest in our country is concerned and their efforts. As far as the senator is concerned, he also has not met with any members of Black Lives Matter, but he said he doesn’t believe that South Carolina is a racist state. We’ll have a complete wrap-up of this coming up later tonight on News 19 at 11:00.