By Associated Press - Saturday, April 24, 2021

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A longtime member of the North Carolina Democratic Party’s state executive committee has been rebuked after he accused a U.S. Senate candidate of exaggerating the number of Black people killed in American history.

Former state Sen. Erica Smith, a Democrat who is seeking to become North Carolina’s first Black U.S. senator, sent an email to supporters Tuesday after the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.

“I’m thinking about the literal millions of Black men and women who’ve been murdered, who were lynched and slaughtered with disregard, and never had their day in court, let alone a just ruling,” Smith wrote.

The News & Observer reports that Michael Schaul, a member of the Democratic Party’s state executive committee representing Wake County, sent Smith’s campaign an email questioning her math.

“Exaggeration doesn’t help. Gross exaggeration is worse. It makes you look bad,” wrote Schaul, who is white and one of more than 800 members on the committee.

After the email was made public by Smith, the county and state parties have responded with statements of support for Smith and a rebuke, though not by name, of Schaul.

Schaul declined interview requests from The News & Observer on Thursday, saying in an email he was “still considering” his response.

Smith posted a portion of his email on Twitter and included her own calculations. Smith, who said she is a descendant of slaves, pointed to research that indicates nearly two million enslaved people did not “survive the voyage” to America and that “half of all slave infants died in their first year of life.”

“We’re at over a million and that’s not even counting Jim Crow, police killings, and all the other ways Black people have been ‘slaughtered’ in our history,” Smith wrote.

The Wake County Democratic Party released a statement that said its leaders were “profoundly disappointed by the callous and factually incorrect response an individual on our county’s State Executive Committee made in reply to Senator Smith’s email.”

It called on Schaul to formally apologize to Smith, retract his statement, and to attend diversity, equity and inclusion training.

The North Carolina Democratic Party said the comments “are wrong and do not reflect the values” of the party.

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