An NAACP official suggested Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, is a GOP puppet.
"A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy," said Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. "The extreme right wing down here finds a black guy to be senator ... and then he goes to Washington, D.C., and articulates the agenda of the Tea Party."
The comments by Barber, made this weekend ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, were first reported by The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.
Scott, who was appointed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to his post, said Barber is an example of "what not to do" when honoring King's legacy.
"To reflect seriously on the comments a person, a pastor, that is filled with baseless and meaningless rhetoric would be to do a disservice to the very people who have sacrificed so much and paved the way," Scott said in a statement. "Instead, I will honor the memory of Dr. King by being proactive in holding the door for others and serving my fellow man. And Rev. Barber will remind me and others of what not to do."
Scott reflected on how he was raised by a single mother, nearly failed high school, started his own business and got himself elected to Congress, first as a House member in 2010.
"As a proud South Carolinian, I see and have experienced the hopes and dreams of Rev. King," Scott said. "I am thankful to live in a country where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. I have benefited from those who sacrificed, suffered and even died so that I might live in a place where freedom is real."
Scott is on the ballot this year as he seeks to serve out the last two years of Jim DeMint's term. DeMint resigned to become president of the Heritage Foundation. Scott is the first black Republican elected to Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction.