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Former Senator Harris Wofford’s Statement on Congressman Jim Gerlach’s Campaign’s Recent Racially-Charged Comments

Former Senator Harris Wofford, the Senator from Pennsylvania from 1991 through 1995, in response to Jim Gerlach’s campaign’s recent racially-charged comments, has issued the below statement. Senator Wofford is a respected leader on civil rights and authority on India who has written a book about early Indian Independence, helped introduce Ghandi’s key disciples to Martin Luther King, Jr., and in 1961 was appointed as special assistant to President John F. Kennedy on civil rights.

“I was concerned to learn about the recent racially-charged comments coming from Congressman Jim Gerlach’s campaign. His campaign is deliberately using rhetoric that sounds like the kind of coded language we’ve seen too often from other campaigns trying to exploit the issue of race for political gain. While our nation has made real progress towards moving beyond its racial divisions, it is appalling to see what is a thinly disguised effort to focus voters on Manan Trivedi’s Indian heritage.

“It is wrong for the Gerlach campaign to dismiss these concerns given our nation’s political history — as recently as the 2008 presidential election — where insidious phrases like He doesn’t share our values” are used to convey double meanings. Such taglines from the Gerlach campaign are readily translated to mean “He’s not one of us.” After weeks of just such coded messages by the Gerlach campaign, it is time to call them on it.  It is bizarre for the Gerlach campaign to charge that Dr. Trivedi has played “the race card” because he has raised funds from members of the Indian-American community.  That charge itself is aclumsy attempt to emphasize that Dr. Trivedi is an Indian American.

“This kind of cynical politics is not worthy of the people who live in Pennsylvania’s 6th District. We can disagree honestly on policy and battle fiercely over issues, but there should be no place in our politics for tactics that are transparently geared to play on voters fears and divide us over race and ethnic background.”

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