Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), also the owner of a car dealership, doubled down on his argument that the automotive industry does not discriminate against women or people of color after a fiery exchange on Friday with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) on the House floor.
“We’re talking about thousands and thousands of auto dealers and millions of people who work in the industry, and making a broad statement that these are people who discriminate against non-white buyers,” the Pennsylvania Republican told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto during an interview on Saturday. “This is absolutely preposterous.”
The clash between the two lawmakers over race and discrimination began ahead of a vote to repeal Obama-era legislation that protects consumers from discrimination by automobile dealers.
Kelly lambasted Waters, a frequent Trump critic, on the floor after she cited a study that has shown discrimination against people of color in the auto industry in their car-loan process. Waters said the study should have included women, too, because “they think women are stupid, don’t know how to negotiate a loan, and women have been taken advantage of too.”
But Kelly fired back, saying the California Democrat was impugning “the integrity” of people in the automobile industry. The verbal fight between the two representatives escalated into a discourse on President Donald Trump and discrimination in the U.S., with Kelly admonishing Waters for trying to divide the American people by bringing up race and gender discrimination.
“I want you to know that I am more offended as an African-American woman than you will ever be,” Waters said in response. “And this business about making America great again: It is your president that’s dividing this country.”
Kelly, whose family has been in the auto-dealership business for 65 years, refused to back down from his comments. The industry, he said, does not discriminate against individuals of color.
“To say that somehow what we do is we prey on non-white people is incredibly divisive,” he said. “It’s not who we are as a country, and if we continue down this path, this cancer that’s working its way through our society and breaking us down as a people, you can’t talk that way.”