Politics & Government

We asked North Carolina’s members of Congress about hate crimes. Here’s what they said.

As hate crimes continue to spike in the U.S., attention has often turned to members of Congress. But what do North Carolina’s senators and representatives think about this issue beyond offering thoughts and prayers? And do they plan to do anything about it?

Those questions have taken on new weight following a week of deadly shootings — at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio. The alleged gunman in El Paso was reportedly motivated by a hatred of immigrants and Mexicans, while the other shooters have been linked to “violent ideologies.”

The impact of hate crimes has also been felt within North Carolina: The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked 40 hate groups active in North Carolina. And many have argued that the 2015 murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill was fueled by Islamophobia, though the killer was not charged with a hate crime.

Earlier this year, The Charlotte Observer joined ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project, which looks to improve sorely-lacking data on hate crimes and bias incidents. In recent months, that project launched an effort to survey members of Congress about the issue.

As a partner newsroom in that project, we reached out to every member of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, asking them the same questions:

  1. Are hate crimes a problem in North Carolina?
  2. Should Congress do something about hate crimes and white supremacist violence in North Carolina? If so, what specifically?

Several members of Congress also addressed past statements they have made on hate crimes, in and outside of North Carolina. Responses, which have been edited for clarity, are below.

Sen. Richard Burr (R):

A spokesperson for Burr refused to comment.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R):

“As FBI Director Christopher Wray noted at a hearing last week, domestic terrorism, including white supremacist violence, is a growing safety threat,” a spokesperson for Tillis said in a statement. “Senator Tillis believes that federal law enforcement should have the tools and resources needed to combat domestic terror threats in order to keep the residents of North Carolina and the rest of the country safe.”

NC-01: G.K. Butterfield (D):

Butterfield’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

NC-02: George Holding (R):

“As a former U.S. Attorney, I have seen my fair share of brutal violence and believe that we must empower law enforcement officials with the resources they need to both address and prevent violent crime,” Holding said in a statement.

The NC-03 seat is currently empty after the death of longtime Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R). A special election for the seat is pitting State Rep. Greg Murphy (R) against Democrat Allen Thomas.

NC-04: David Price (D):

“Yes,” Price said in a statement. “On February 10, 2015 Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were murdered in a hate crime in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.”

He pointed to a press conference he held about the murder, and a number of his recent votes on the issue:

In the most recent Congress, he has co-sponsored a resolution condemning the “horrific anti-Semitic attack” on a San Diego synagogue and voted for a resolution rejecting white nationalism and white supremacy.

Price’s spokesperson said he agreed to cosponsor the Disarm Hate Act, which would prevent those convicted of a hate crime from obtaining a firearm, and the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which specifies that an offense involving lynching is a hate crime.

He also cosponsored the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety Act. This bill would standardize and provide a threat assessment and management process across the federal government. It would also create a grant program to provide states with the funding needed for training, resources, and support for multidisciplinary threat assessment and management units.

In the 115th Congress, Price said he supported a resolution condemning the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Va. (That passed the House unanimously.)

He also co-sponsored what his spokesperson called “a comprehensive hate crime bill.” It would authorize DOJ grants for state and local governments to identify and report hate crimes and create reporting hotlines; support law enforcement programs that address hate crimes; and “create accountability” that local agencies report statistics on hate crimes.

In August 2017, Price was one of dozens of members of Congress who signed a letter to DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security demanding that the agencies counter the threat posed by violent white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. His spokesperson also pointed to a statement the congressman made in response to Charlottesville.

NC-05: Virginia Foxx (R):

Foxx’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

NC-06: Mark Walker (R):

“Any crimes or acts of violence done in the name of radical, racial, or hateful ideologies are abhorrent and should be condemned,” a spokesperson for Walker said in a statement.

Walker is a member of the Homeland Security Committee and the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism.

As such, “Walker is involved with efforts to work with law enforcement to construct comprehensive strategies to identify and stop hateful acts of violence,” the spokesperson said. “Congress needs to continue encouraging state and local law enforcement to participate in the Joint Terrorism Taskforce program and share information about domestic terrorism threats.”

This year, Walker led the passage of a law that he said helps combat domestic terror threats by ensuring federal agencies communicate well with local law enforcement. In 2015, he introduced a bill that authorizes federal funding for state and local agencies to counter violent extremism.

In 2017, Walker denounced a planned Ku Klux Klan rally in Randolph County, his spokesperson said.

“I despise bringing any awareness to such despicable behavior; however, such hate needs to be rebuked,” Walker said in a statement at the time. “The KKK rally planned for May in Randolph County is a reminder of the hateful ideologies that exists within a minuscule group.”

NC-07: David Rouzer (R):

Rouzer’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

NC-08: Richard Hudson (R):

“As a member of the Helsinki Commission, Rep. Hudson has taken a leadership role in efforts to combat hate crimes, white nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism, and radical ideology,” a spokesperson said.

(Founded in 1976, that commission was created to promote democracy and human rights through military, economic, and environmental cooperation among 57 member countries.)

At a commission meeting this year, the spokesperson said, Hudson addressed a gathering of representatives from those 57 states and spoke “on anti-Semitism and the inclusion of civil society.”

In July, he joined the commission for a hearing “to examine the role religious actors and interfaith institutions play in developing strategies to prevent and respond to hate crimes and violence.”

Hudson’s spokesperson added that he has supported a resolution aimed at condemning white nationalism and white supremacy, and two pieces of legislation that “condemn anti-Semitism.”

(One of these targets both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry, while the other opposes the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement and “other efforts targeting Israel.”)

She added that Hudson is also cosponsor of the “Combating BDS Act,” a bill that would allow state and local governments to pass laws restricting its business with companies that support BDS. That bill, she said, would “take steps to reject the anti-Semitic BDS movement.”

The NC-09 seat is currently empty. The results of last November’s election were tossed out by the bipartisan state elections board, following ballot fraud by Republican operatives. Democrat Dan McCready is running again against state Rep. Dan Bishop (R) in a September special election.

NC-10: Patrick McHenry (R):

“Congressman McHenry has long supported efforts to combat hate crimes, white nationalism, anti-Semitisim, and racism,” his spokesperson said.

She added that McHenry has supported a resolution aimed at condemning white nationalism and white supremacy, and two pieces of legislation that “condemn anti-Semitism.” (These were the same three mentioned by Hudson’s spokesperson.)

She added that he is also a cosponsor of the “Combating BDS Act,” which she said will “combat the anti-Semitic goals” of that movement.

NC-11: Mark Meadows (R):

Meadows’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

NC-12: Rep. Alma Adams (D):

“Every day, people of color, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community and far too many others experience discrimination, intimidation, harassment, and violence,” Adams said in a statement. “Hate, both speech and crimes, endures in America. The President has normalized hate speech with his racist bullying and xenophobic vitriol.”

She pointed to FBI statistics that show hate crimes are increasing across the country, including a 12% increase in North Carolina.

“This reflects a dangerous rise in white supremacist terrorism that threatens all of us,” she said. “Congress can and must play a role to address the increase in hate crimes.”

Adams said Congress should exercise oversight over the Department of Justice to ensure it is enforcing federal hate crime laws and “aggressively prosecuting white supremacist violence.” Congress can also allocate more resources for state and local law enforcement to accurately track and report hate crimes, she said.

“And we can continue to speak out against hateful, racist rhetoric and actions,” she added.

NC-13: Ted Budd (R):

Budd’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Staff writer Brian Murphy contributed.

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Teo Armus writes about race, immigration and social issues for The Charlotte Observer. He previously worked for The Washington Post, NBC News Digital, and The Texas Tribune, including a stint reporting from the U.S.-Mexico border. He is a graduate of Columbia University, a native Spanish speaker and the son of South American immigrants.
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