Dianne Feinstein, 89, Reportedly Had Entire Conversation With Wrong Black Colleague

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and an aide ride in an elevator following Feinstein's Wednesday return to the Capitol / Getty Images

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the 89-year-old California Democrat who on Wednesday arrived in the Capitol after a near-three-month absence due to illness, reportedly confused one black man with another.

Feinstein in 2021 approached Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican who has represented South Carolina in the Senate since 2013, "stuck out her hand, and told him she had been rooting for him and was so happy to have him serving with her in the Senate," according to a new book that Politico excerpted on Thursday. Scott and his staffers knew that "Feinstein had mistaken the South Carolinian for Raphael Warnock, the newly elected Democratic senator from Georgia," and "played along." Feinstein's office declined comment when Politico published the excerpt, from Washington Post reporter Ben Terris's The Big Break.

The incident, which appears in the book as part of a long section criticizing Feinstein's racial politics, came one year before the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "colleagues worry Dianne Feinstein is now mentally unfit to serve." According to the piece, Feinstein repeatedly had "no apparent recognition" she was repeating herself in conversations with colleagues, who "had to reintroduce themselves to Feinstein multiple times during an interaction."

"It's bad, and it's getting worse," one Democratic senator said of Feinstein's condition.

Many of Feinstein's colleagues, including progressive Reps. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), have called on her to resign, which she has refused to do. Multiple California Democrats are already vying for Feinstein's seat.

Feinstein announced in February that she will retire after her current term. She then forgot that she had made the announcement.

The longtime California senator was absent from Congress for nearly three months, blaming a bout of shingles. She entered the Capitol in a wheelchair, with her hand "visibly trembling" and her eyes bloodshot, the Huffington Post reported.

"Where am I going?" she asked as she sat in the wheelchair.

The Big Break excerpt is not the first time Feinstein has received criticism for racial issues. The San Francisco Board of Education in 2021 stripped Feinstein's name from a school because, while Feinstein was San Francisco's mayor in the 1980s, the city replaced a vandalized Confederate flag.

Published under: Dianne Feinstein