Rep. James Clyburn (D., S.C.), the assistant Democratic leader, said Thursday that "dog whistles" were being used to oppose him in his campaign to be the next House majority whip, something he never expected to come from friends and fellow Democrats.
"This whole notion that I'm some kind of, or was some kind of a token is a bunch of poppycock," Clyburn told MSNBC host Craig Melvin. "You expect those things … to be used in these campaigns, and I expect to hear dog whistles in campaigns. I never expected to hear it coming from friends and supporters of my colleagues."
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Clyburn is the only African-American on the top Democratic leadership team.
As Democrats prepare take back the lower chamber in January, there is a fight over leadership brewing. The Washington Post reports that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D., Ohio) is "overwhelmed" by the amount of support from fellow Democrats urging her to challenge House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) for the speakership. The race for speaker of the House is not the only leadership position that might be shaken up.
"Also happening, Congressman James Clyburn is accusing detractors of using racially charged dog whistles to undermine his bid for House majority whip," Melvin said. "In an interview with McClatchy, Clyburn said, ‘I don't know where it's all coming from but someone came to me over the weekend and told me that when I was whip before, I was a figurehead.' Clyburn also alleges he was called ‘token.'"
Melvin asked the congressman if the reports of his fellow Democrats using dog whistles are only rumor.
"I don't think it's rumor at all. I do think that those words were used because it's not the first time," Clyburn said. "When I ran for whip before, I heard some of that. people were saying to me that an African-American did not have the capacity to raise the kind of money that you need to raise in that capacity. I proved them all wrong then."
"And to be clear, these are Democrats we're talking about too, right? We're not talking about folks on the other side of the aisle?" Melvin asked.
"Well, what I heard over the weekend – it was Saturday when I got a phone call from a colleague saying that was being repeated by a fellow Democrat," Clyburn said. "Where that person got it from, I don't know."
Rep. Diana DeGett (D., Colo.) is challenging Clyburn to become the majority whip.