- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 1, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - An Indiana lawmaker is facing a backlash after a 2015 Facebook discussion came to light in which he said “racism is not real” and lamented the plight of the white male.

Republican Sen. Andy Zay of Huntington said he should have been “more careful with my words” and that he does believe racism is real.

Tyler Cooley, a Democrat, provided The Journal Gazette and WPTA-TV the private direct message conversation he had with Zay. Cooley said he was aghast by the remarks and viewed it as the “epitome of privilege.”

Zay made the comments before being selected by Republican precinct committee members in 2016 to complete the final two years of Jim Banks’ term in the state Senate after Banks was elected to Congress.

In the private Facebook conversation three years ago, Zay said “the biggest minority class in America is the white male.”

“These so called minorities are given way more opportunity to succeed and be part of successful programs than the average white male,” he added. The conversation also included discussion about tax abatements, minimum wage and then-President Barack Obama.

In a statement Monday, Zay said his remarks were “part of a much broader discussion on the American dream. He said he believed every Indiana resident “and every person should be treated equally regardless of race.”

Zay represents all of northeastern Indiana’s Wabash County and parts of Grant, Huntington and Whitley counties. He’s running for re-election this fall.

The Democratic candidate for the Senate seat, Gary Snyder, said he’s “disturbed” by the views Zay expressed in the conversation.

“Our state senators are there to serve all of the people of their district,” Snyder said. “While Zay is free to hold the belief that ‘racism is not real,’ he is denying the very real experiences of voters he is representing.”

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