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Sen. Tim Scott draws giggles, gasps in caustic speech at charity dinner

March 2, 2017 GMT

WASHINGTON — At the front of a ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel before a packed house of reporters, members of Congress and lobbyists, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott got real about race.

“I love the police,” the South Carolina Republican said. “And I tell that to the officer each and every time he pulls me over and asks me ‘is this my car?’”

Scott was the chosen Republican this year to deliver a roast of sorts at the Washington Press Club Foundation charity dinner. The only black Republican serving in the Senate, and someone who has spoken candidly about the discrimination he has faced throughout his life, Scott chose Wednesday evening to infuse his experiences with caustic wit and a sense of humor.

He joked that as the highest ranking African-American Republican, his title is HBIC — or, “Head Brother in Charge.”

He recalled one version of the moment when then-Gov. Nikki Haley called to appoint him from the U.S. House to the U.S. Senate following the vacancy triggered when Jim DeMint left the Senate early.

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“We do not believe in affirmative action. We just don’t believe it,” said Scott. “However, if you ever get a call from your female Indian governor saying, ‘does the brother have a minute? I want to talk with you about becoming a U.S. senator?’ say ‘Yes!’ Just say ‘yes!’”

As the mostly-white crowd giggled, Scott thanked the “three black people” in the audience, “not counting my chief of staff.”

Jennifer DeCasper, Scott’s most senior member of his team, has received media attention as one of only a small handful of black chiefs of staff in the Senate.

Scott made some other Palmetto State references. He said he was prepared to be heckled by the dinner crowd Wednesday night because of his experience at town halls the past two weekends back home.

And he gave a shoutout to his three closest friends in the South Carolina congressional delegation who all got elected to the House in 2010: U.S. Reps. Trey Gowdy and Jeff Duncan, and now-Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

“We became like brothers ... Obviously brothers from other mothers,” Scott said. “Have you seen those fellas?”

This is the second year in a row a South Carolina lawmaker has headlined what’s known more colloquially as the “congressional correspondents’ dinner.” Last year, Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, still fresh from his own failed bid for president, delivered a speech that poked fun at the entire 2016 Republican field.

He started with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — “if you killed (him) on the the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” he said.

Graham went on to declare his party had gone “bats--- crazy” in the era of Donald Trump and concluded by putting on a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.