‘I am not stepping down’: Matthews responds to calls to quit race after audio leak

Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 12:45 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2022 at 5:38 AM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - State Rep. Krystle Matthews told reporters Friday she would not step away from her fight to oust Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.

Matthews said the statement included in leaked audio was “a blatant mischaracterization” of what she said in context.

“With that being said, I do understand how some who saw or heard the comments may have been put off and for that, I want to offer my sincerest apologies,” she said.

Matthews accused the conservative activist group Project Veritas of cutting on sentence and putting it with the “S-word” adding that they have refused to release the whole tape, which she said “would actually clear some of this up.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some viewers may find some of the language in the news conference offensive.

WATCH LIVE: Rep. Krystle Matthews news conference

WATCH LIVE: State Rep. Krystle Matthews holding news conference amid calls to quit

Posted by Live 5 News on Friday, September 9, 2022

“My track record shows my ability to work with people regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation,” she said.

She said the leadership in South Carolina does not want her to succeed.

“I am not stepping down. The people put me here. People want a fighter,” Matthews said. “They are tired of these brazen politics where we keep electing these pretty cute elected officials who are nothing more than s--- wrapped up in a pretty box.”

Asked whether she has any concerns that she is bringing her party down, she was adamant.

“The fact that I’ve been here two terms, even with the way I talk, even after talking this way for the first two years, even after all the obstacles, the fact that I’m still here tells you that the people in my district don’t give a damn about language. They care about results. They care about solutions,” Matthews said. “I didn’t get in politics to impress people. OK? I got into this to help the community.”

Leaked audio led to calls for Matthews to end campaign

The Democrat has faced criticism and calls to quit, first from Republicans and then from colleagues in her own party after the publication of leaked audio in which she appeared to make disparaging remarks about her constituents.

The audio published by conservative activist group Project Veritas was of Matthews speaking to one of its members without her knowledge.

In the audio, Matthews, who is Black, is heard saying she represents a “mostly white” district, adding, of white voters, “I keep them right here — like under my thumbs. ... Otherwise, they get out of control — like kids.”

“You ought to know who you’re dealing with,” Matthews goes on to say. “You’ve got to treat them like s—-. That’s the only way they’ll respect you.”

In a statement, Matthews acknowledged her voice on the recording, calling Project Veritas a “satirical MAGA Powered news outlet.”

The compilation also features more of Matthews’ conversation, parts of which were previously published by Project Veritas, in which she spoke to an inmate about funding her campaign with “dope boy money” and having Democrats run as Republicans, saying “secret sleepers” represent “the only way you’re gonna change the dynamics in South Carolina.”

At the time of the earlier release, ahead of South Carolina’s June primary runoff, Matthews confirmed to The Associated Press that it was her voice on the tape but said the edited audio of a “tongue-in-cheek” exchange didn’t reflect the full picture.

Matthews won the runoff to face Scott, who is seeking what he’s said will be his final Senate term and is among South Carolina’s most popular politicians. The Black Republican is widely expected to win the general election in South Carolina, where no Democrat has won a statewide race in more than 15 years.

On Thursday, Democrats including gubernatorial nominee Joe Cunningham said he concurred with state Rep. Justin Bamberg, who in an op-ed published online called Matthews “toxic.”

“If any of our white counterparts had said the same thing with regards to blacks, the minority community, including myself, would be up in arms calling for that member’s immediate resignation,” Bamberg added.

In a statement provided to AP, Cunningham said that “there is absolutely no place in our political discourse” for Matthews’ comments, adding that “the Democratic Party cannot and should not tolerate such behavior from our elected officials and candidates.”

State Sen. Brad Hutto, Democrats’ leader in that chamber — who was also his party’s nominee to challenge U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2014 — echoed Cunningham’s comments about Matthews’ Senate bid, telling AP, “When candidates of either party start making irresponsible statements, beyond what party they’re from, they need to reevaluate their candidacy, and that’s what needs to happen here.”

One of the fellow Democrats Matthews defeated, Catherine Fleming Bruce, told AP she agreed with the calls for Matthews to step aside, saying the nominee “has made it impossible for her to be that standard bearer, representing our state’s diverse population.”

Trav Robertson, chairman of the state’s Democrats, emphasized on Thursday that Matthews didn’t represent the party’s perspective but stopped short of urging her to quit her campaign, which he said was “becoming a distraction to other Democrats on the ballot.”

“If I were advising her campaign, I would focus on her getting reelected to the (state) House of Representatives,” Robertson told AP.

Were Matthews to suspend her campaign, her name would likely still remain on ballots, which party officials said were already being produced for overseas voters. With no third-party candidate in the race, Scott’s name is the only other that would appear.

“Regardless of race, I love everyone,” Matthews said in her statement. “One thing you can learn from Project Veritas’s first audio attack on me, is obviously I have no biases toward a certain ethnic group.”

Matthews calls out colleagues who called for her to quit

Matthews criticized Cunningham, who she said is “already struggling with support from the minority community.”

“And I’m not sure how attacking a black woman who has shown her work, not through words, but through actions and has done more for South Carolina than he ever had in his one term thinks he should speak before he knows the facts,” she said.

She also criticized Bamberg, who she accused of taking “the coward’s way out” instead of coming to her with his concerns, and alleged he had “never visited” the community that elected him.

She ended her news conference by saying she had 60 days left before the general election in which she will face Scott.

“Come on, get with us get on this train. Let’s make something shake for South Carolina. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important,” she said.

She also had a final message for her detractors after two years of campaigning.

“If that’s all they got, they in trouble because people in South Carolina want something different.”