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Some of those who have come to the streets of Charlotte, N.C., over the past two days say they want justice for what they say is the wrongful police killing of a black man in Charlotte earlier this week. Others say they want more respect — from the police, from politicians, from everyone. Some say they just want to be heard, whatever that may mean to them. The reasons are varied — but there is simply no sign that all of these protesters, who are overwhelmingly black, have come because they hate white people.

That’s exactly what Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) said in an interview with BBC News on Thursday evening, when asked what the protesters’ grievances are. “The grievance in their mind is the animus, the anger, he said. “They hate white people, because white people are successful and they’re not.”

Without being prompted, Pittenger quickly pivoted to a discussion about welfare and race. “I mean, yes, it is. It is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, we have put people in bondage so that they can’t be all they’re capable of being.

“America is the opportunity of freedom and liberty. We didn’t become that way because we have great government, who provided everything for everyone. No. That’s the destiny of America, the freedom to come to this country, why they’re still coming to our shores is because they can take their work ethic and their hard effort and put up their capital and the risk and build out their lives.”

Pittenger, who is from Charlotte and represents its outer suburbs, apologized on Twitter shortly after the interview aired:

His comments came shortly after news broke that a protester who was injured during the demonstrations died.

Pittenger is not the first politician to make a controversial, blanket statement about the racial tensions embroiling North Carolina’s largest city right now.

Earlier on Thursday, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) called it “outrageous” that President Obama would make a joke about race while North Carolina is having race-related problems:

The “outrageous” joke in question came at a completely unrelated event Thursday at the White House. The Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports the president was handing out national medals for humanities and arts. One was supposed to go to actor Morgan Freeman, who couldn’t make it. So the president quipped that Freeman was undoubtedly “off playing a black president again. He never lets me have my moment.”

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