A top supporter of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in South Carolina on Monday evening accused influential House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) of putting his thumb on the scale for former Vice President Joe Biden.
Bakari Sellers, a CNN talking head, made his accusation days after Clyburn claimed that black Democrats are not really divided over Biden’s authorship of the infamous 1994 crime bill.
“I’m just going to say it: Jim Clyburn is tacitly endorsing Joe Biden,” Sellers told McClatchy on Monday. “Anybody who attempts to say that his thumb is not on the scales is just not paying attention.”
Selllers, the ambitious commentator who reportedly has his eyes on Clyburn’s seat, added that he “was disappointed to see Jim Clyburn jump on a grenade for Joe Biden” on the crime bill.
Last week, Clyburn told NPR that the supposed divide among black Democrats regarding the crime bill is “not real.”
“They’re very excited about Joe Biden, most of them know what I just shared with you about the crime bill, but they don’t have a megaphone,” Clyburn said of the state’s black voters who will likely make up nearly 60 percent of the primary electorate. “I mean y’all got all the print. Y’all write this stuff. All they can do is talk about it among themselves. That’s why Joe Biden is running 76% among them and so much doubt among y’all.”
Harris, whom Sellers has endorsed and who is struggling to gain traction with black voters in the critical first-in-the-South primary state, has criticized the crime bill for contributing to “mass incarceration in our country.”
On Friday, Clyburn, who has vowed to stay neutral in the early part of the race, will host his “World Famous Fish Fry” event, and 22 Democrats running for president are expected to attend. As McClatchy noted, the Palmetto State has its “‘first in the South’ presidential primary status in large part due to an understanding that Clyburn, for decades the most influential Democrat in the state, would not get involved on behalf of a candidate early enough on in the nominating process to affect the outcome.”
Clyburn and Biden have a longstanding relationship, and the South Carolina Democrat has often praised Biden and argued that many black voters view Biden as the best Democrat to defeat President Donald Trump.
“I said way back, ‘if Joe Biden gets in this race, everybody else would be running for second place,’” Clyburn told NPR. “I said that because I’ve known Joe Biden for a long time. I know how the black community feels about him … a lot of black people see him as the best candidate to defeat Trump, but they also see him as the candidate who has a record that they feel good about.”
In a poll conducted by Change Research and the Post and Courier that was released on Sunday, Biden led the field in South Carolina with 37 percent. But his support decreased by nine percentage points from last month.
The South Carolina poll, which under-sampled African-American voters and may have over-sampled wealthy Democrats, found that Warren (17 percent) leapfrogged Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) into second place, doubling her support from last month. Harris came in fourth with 9 percent, tied with Sanders and behind South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (11 percent).