Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in Congress, on Friday dismissed a prominent African-American's criticism of him as a GOP stooge.
Scott, a first-term U.S. senator from South Carolina, delivered the keynote luncheon speech at the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C.
After his address, dozens of GOP admirers, virtually all of them white, waited in line to have their pictures taken with Scott, shake his hand and exchange greetings.
Reporters asked Scott after the lunch to respond to comments Sunday by the Rev. William Barber II, head of the NAACP's North Carolina office.
"A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy," Barber said from the pulpit at Zion Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., the capital of Scott's home state. "The extreme rightwing down here finds a black guy to be senator and claims he's the first black senator since Reconstruction -- and then he goes to Washington, D.C., and articulates the agenda of the tea party."
Asked by McClatchy on Friday if the criticism upset him, Scott said: "There just is no response to baseless, rhetorical comments by someone who's never met me."
Scott added: "There really isn't a response to it. It would be different if I knew him and he knew me, but what do you say to a guy who doesn't know you at all?"
During his speech to 1,000 Republican officials and activists at the Renaissance Hotel near the White House, Scott described his experiences growing up poor in a single-parent home in Charleston, S.C.
At one of numerous points where he was interrupted by applause, Scott predicted that Republicans will regain control of the Senate in the November elections.