‘Who in the hell do you think you are?’: Police reform bill hearing goes off the rails over race

A House Judiciary Committee hearing on a Democrat-backed police reform bill on Wednesday erupted into a shouting match over race between Reps. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, and Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican.

Richmond opened his remarks to the committee on the markup of the Justice in Police Act saying he was “offended and angry as hell” by Republicans wanting to inject needless amendments, such as addressing the antifa movement, into the bill.

The bill was introduced by Democrats earlier this month to overhaul law enforcement in the United States as the nation grapples with a reckoning over race and policing following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota in May and the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky in March, among others.

“You all are white men who have never lived in my shoes and you do not know what it is like to be an African American male,” said Richmond, who is Black. “And if you are opposed, let’s just have the vote. But please do not come into this committee and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community.”

That’s when Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is white and a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, chimed in and tried to shout down Richmond.

“I appreciate your passion,” Gaetz interrupted. “Are you suggesting none of us have non-white children?”

Richmond then acknowledged he knows Republicans on the committee who “have Black grandchildren,” but added, “It is about Black males, Black people in the streets that are getting killed, and if one of them happens to be your kid, I am concerned about them too. And clearly I am more concerned about him than you are.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill on June 17, 2020.Kevin Dietsch / Pool via AP

Gaetz then exploded in anger, telling Richmond, “You are claiming you have more concern for your family than I do? Who in the hell do you think you are? That is outrageous.”

“Was that a nerve?” Richmond responded.

“You’re damn right that was a nerve,” Gaetz said before Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chair of the committee called for order.

Gaetz, who called Richmond’s complaints of unnecessary amendments “insincere” and said Republicans are acting “in good faith,” also demanded Richmond’s words be stricken from the record to no avail.

“People are demanding action right now,” Richmond said, arguing that he does not want to see a “watered-down bill” during a national crisis.

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