A leader of the civil rights movement in Colorado has called on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) to break his silence and denounce President Trump’s racism.

“The fact that Cory Gardner has the total support of someone, a president no less, who would retweet “white power” should give us all pause,” said Rosemary Harris Lytle, President of the NAACP Colorado, Montana & Wyoming State Area Conference via email. “Supremacy and bigotry have been a constant threat to the very existence of Black people. Sen. Gardner should immediately distance himself from these despicable ideals — or he should step down. Colorado is entitled to, and must demand, better — for every person, not just white people.”

Rosemary Harris Lytle

In less than 48 hours, President Trump retweeted a video of a supporter shouting “White Power,” and issued another full-throated endorsement of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). The racist tweet drew vocal criticism, including from several other senators, but nothing from Gardner himself.

Asked about Gardner’s recent proposal to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, given the senator’s silence in the face of President Trump’s numerous racist statements, Harris Lytle, dismissed Gardner’s introduction of the bill as “totally disingenuous.”

“While I have supported and have called for establishing Juneteenth as a holiday for the last ten years, there is much more that Senator Gardner can and must do. If he believes that Juneteenth should be a paid federal holiday, perhaps he will also fight for the Emmitt Till Anti Lynching Act.”

In a press release last week, Gardner announced the introduction of a bill making June 19 a federal holiday, noting, “It’s past time we honor Juneteenth as a federal holiday so Americans across the nation can celebrate and recognize America’s long-fought path towards equality.”

Nearly three years ago, following President Trump’s controversial speech after the deadly hate rally in Charlottesville, VA, at which the president described white supremacists as “very fine people,” Gardner joined with many of his fellow senators in promptly condemning Trump’s statement. 

Since then, however, Colorado’s junior senator has refrained from comment on the President’s racist statements, such as when Trump referred to African nations as “shithole countries,” in 2018 or when Trump referred to COVID-19 as “Kung Flu,” during his recent rally in Tulsa. 

Gardner did offer a mild objection last summer when the president tweeted that four Democratic Congresswomen of color should go back to the “crime infested places from which they came.” Gardner said he wouldn’t have sent those tweets and didn’t think the President should have done so.

And while Gardner has once again chosen to remain silent, other senators, including Tim Scott (R-SC), have not hesitated to criticize the President. Scott, the lone African-American in the Republican caucus, is one of the nearly 50 cosponsors on Gardner’s Juneteenth bill. Gardner’s Colorado colleague from across the aisle, Michael Bennet, also put his name on the bill.

Yesterday, just hours after Trump’s tweet Bennet too repudiated the president’s latest racist message. 

As reported by Colorado Politics’ Michael Karlik, 

“Bennet slammed President Donald Trump in his remarks, by referencing how earlier that day, ‘the president retweeted a tweet where somebody was yelling, ‘white supremacy, white supremacy,’’ he said. ‘We are one nation under God for a reason and that reason is to cope with a pandemic like the one we have. Every single one of us matters.’”

An email request for comment from Gardner was not returned.

The White House has deleted the tweet but has yet to to condemn the use of the racist term. Spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said that although Trump listened to the video, he didn’t hear the shouts of “White Power,” despite the fact that it is clearly audible repeatedly in the first eight seconds of the recording.