“What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit,”
“After decades of fighting for voting rights, many Black friends in Oklahoma saw this as a direct attack on their right to vote, for their vote to matter, and even a belief that their votes made an election in our country illegitimate.”
“I can assure you my intent to give a voice to Oklahomans who had questions was never also an intent to diminish the voice of any Black American,”
“I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you,” Lankford wrote. “I deeply regret my blindness to that perception, and for that I am sorry.”
(C) Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma)
The letter from his constituent that led to his apology
An Open Letter to Senator James Lankford
By Greg R. Taylor, Contributor
When pro-Trump loyalists ransacked the United States Capitol, a riotous insurrection interrupting your speech, you were moved to an “undisclosed location” for many hours. I can’t imagine what that was like, but it seems those harrowing hours led you to recant your call for a 10-day delay of certifying the electoral college vote and a commission to investigate voter fraud claims.
While shards of glass shattered by pro-Trump rioters and looters were still being swept up in the Capitol Building, however, you and your staff sent an email to me and thousands of Oklahomans with more than 5,000 words about voter fraud. Rather than apologizing for your complicity and commonality with those perpetrating violence and death in the Capitol, you couldn’t stop pedaling lies as truth. Even after seeing how those repeated lies led thousands of the electorate to historic and seditious acts, even on the floor of the senate, you persisted.
You know full well that Congress has no authority to overturn the election. You know that more than sixty court cases rejected the notion of widespread voter fraud. The electorate, however, doesn’t always perceive the difference between election irregularities and unproven conspiracy theories. As your colleague Sen. Mitt Romney said, voters need you to tell them the truth. Why then do you continue to focus on unsubstantiated widespread voter fraud?
Senator Lankford, the November 3, 2020 election was one of the most secure in American history, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. I believe you already know that. These past few years, you worked against voter fraud. Rather than celebrating this breakthrough against voter suppression of people of color, however, you chose to join the wrong side of history with President Donald Trump. Certainly, you understand that your cover of voter security is as old as Jim Crow and one of the most used against people of color in American history. Your colleagues in the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission are calling for you to step down from the Commission. Some Oklahomans are calling for you to step down from the US Senate.
I want you to know I’m praying for you and glad you and the other senators and house members are safe now. I’m also grateful to those brave law enforcement officers who kept you and your colleagues safe. I’m sad that at least five persons have died as a result of the insurrectionists’ actions. I know you share the same sentiments.
Senator Lankford, I’m choosing to write to you because, like you, I am also a former pastor and a follower of Jesus. I’m writing to you specifically because I view you as humble and able to change your mind. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, on the other hand, has joined a loyalist band who will apparently fulfill Donald Trump’s prophesy that he could (nearly and literally) shoot someone on the street with the support of people like Mullin. Mullin equivocated about the events of January 6, “No one is to blame here. We are all to blame,” according to the Tulsa World.
If that’s true, then no one or everyone should be held accountable for seditious acts. Specific parties are responsible for the attempted coup at the Capitol on January 6.
You were attempting to blockade the same electoral college certification the seditious mobs who interrupted your speech tried to stop. Will you not take this interruption as a sign to disavow the President completely? President Donald Trump stoked and encouraged the violent overthrow of the legislature for the most narcissistic of reasons–for his own glorification and power, regardless of the cost of lives. When you play into a demagogue’s evil, do you not become complicit with those destructive ways? The responsibility for this lay at the feet of President Trump first, and those who support this dangerous President, a close second. You still have time to disavow your support of a president before part of your legacy will be doggedly complying with the most dangerous President in American history.
Please do not continue downplaying the responsibility in the oldest and most coy of ways, saying the “Lankford and Daines Statement on Electoral Vote Certification” that “actions at the Capitol are indefensible and not supported by the vast majority of Trump supporters.” This is circular logic. Supporters of Trump, like you, have tried for five years to pick and choose what you support and do not support in this erratic administration. The location you have chosen so far is to continue supporting Trump, which implies you are complicit with the desecration of the very constitution you say you uphold. It’s past time for you to disavow support of Trump, to make clear your “undisclosed location,” and take the awful lumps that some radicalized Trump supporters will undoubtedly heap on you–as they have on Sen. Lindsey Graham. It may cost you dearly in your political life, but I believe you will also be surprised how many Oklahomans–of all parties or no party–would support you in this.
While people in our state continue to die from COVID-19 in increasing numbers, record high after record high, why would you continue to waste our time and tax dollars fanning the flames of insurrection? You say in your January 7th letter that Trump’s legal team didn’t have enough time to find evidence of voter fraud and you cite anecdotes that still don’t amount to widespread evidence of voter fraud that could ever overturn this election. The problem is not lack of time but a lack of evidence. What we as Oklahomans now have evidence of is your complicity in the President’s not-so-peaceful transfer of power.
I believe there are many Oklahomans like me who would rather see elected officials’ time spent on helping us survive this pandemic. I’m looking forward to a new national leadership that will not lie to us but tell us the truth, that will not endanger lives but save lives. I don’t think you have to be obstructionist and obstinate to lead. Stir up the moral courage to tell the truth that leads to a nation and a world that may flourish.