Asking a witness about child custody and racial education, Republican Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin said, “I don’t want reality.”
The remark caused laughter in the courtroom.
Mullin said he “misspoke” and resumed pestering his witness about whether a book intended to teach children about racism was appropriate for early learning classrooms.
Mullin is an election denier, cage veteran and plumbing company owner who served in the United States House before being elected to the Senate last year.
His confrontational style has already been the subject of commentary. In March, for example, he told a Teamsters executive to “shut your mouth” during a heated exchange.
Mullin’s remark about reality and its uses came Wednesday during a hearing held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The panel is chaired by Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, a belief system that Mullin vehemently opposes.
The hearing was held under the title “Solving the Child Care Crisis: Addressing the Needs of Working Families and Child Care Educators.”
The five witnesses included the New Mexico Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Care and the President of the Independent Women’s Forum of Washington DC.
Taking his turn for questions, Mullin held up a book called Our Skin and said, “I’m going to read exactly what this book says. You might find this interesting.
“A long time ago, long before you were born, a group of white people came up with an idea called race. They sorted people by skin color and said white people were better, smarter, prettier and deserved more than everyone else.
“That would be taught if we socialized our pre-K system, that would be.”
Asked by Sanders if he disagreed with the book, Mullin replied, “A thousand percent. What if we learned that Jesus loves me? …and teaching Jesus loves and loves little children. The lyrics say “Red and yellow, black and white”. They are all precious to us.
The hymn Mullin was referring to, Jesus Loves Little Children, was written by C Herbert Woolston.
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race, by Jessica Ralli and Megan Madison, has been seized by the right in the ongoing battle over teaching race.
Saying he was “Cherokee Native American” and adding, “I think we’ve experienced a bit of racism in my life before,” Mullin continued, “I’m going to ask everyone on the panel. what is best to teach?
Two witnesses tried to answer. The senator talked about it.
Speaking to Cheryl Morman, president of the Virginia Alliance for Family Child Care Associations, Mullin asked, “So which one is better?”
Morman said: “I disagree. First, it is important that we teach Jesus and Jesus is what we teach.
Mullin chimed in, “So which is better?”
Morman said: “But the reality is -“
Mullin cut her off: “I don’t want reality, I ask the question, which one is better?”
Amid the laughter — and with Mullin the recipient of a sideways glance from the Republican next to him, Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville — an unidentified senator said, “I’ve got it on tape.”
“Bad talk,” Mullin said, before returning to attack.