Oklahoma senator blames hateful rhetoric for teens harassing Native American

Sen. James Lankford

“If there’s anything we should have learned from Martin Luther King Jr. is hate doesn’t drive out hate, only love drives out hate,” said Sen. James Lankford. | Al Drago/Getty Images

The actions of a group of teenage Trump supporters who harassed a Native American veteran in Washington this weekend are the result of an uptick in hateful rhetoric that has creeped into the public discourse, said Sen. James Lankford.

“The key issue that I would say is in our culture for whatever reason, in our current culture, whether it’s on social media or at events, I see people trying to stop hate with more hate,” the Oklahoma Republican said Sunday during an interview with host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.”

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“That doesn’t help us as a culture,” he said. “If there’s anything we should have learned from Martin Luther King Jr. is hate doesn’t drive out hate, only love drives out hate.”

King, whose federal holiday will be observed Monday, famously preached in a 1957 sermon: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“To respond back with love and compassion to people rather than driving out hatred would help us in our social media culture and with the dialogue that’s happening,” Lankford said. “It would help us at events and be able to have more open dialogue.”

The confrontation Friday between Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Omaha Tribe elder and Vietnam veteran, and students from a Catholic boys’ high school in Kentucky, wearing hats emblazoned with President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, has sparked widespread outrage through the weekend. Phillips said the students were chanting “build the wall” at him. Defenders of the teenagers said others at the site were harassing them.

The teenagers were in the nation’s capital to participate in the anti-abortion March for Life, which coincided with the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington. Their school, Covington Catholic, and the Roman Catholic diocese have issued a statement condemning the behavior.

Lankford, whose home state boasts one of the nation’s largest Native American populations, declined to say whether the president bore any responsibility for the episode. Trump has repeatedly mocked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as “Pocahontas” and recently invoked the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre in a tweet mocking her.