Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) did what no other Republican senator has yet done: try to get by with an explanation to Black constituents for his part in fanning the Big Lie, the unfounded and malicious allegation that the election was stolen.

The Tulsa World reported on Jan. 13: “Several prominent Black Tulsans have called for U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s removal or resignation from the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Committee because of his involvement in [Jan. 6′s] doubtful efforts to delay, discredit or even overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s certification as the next president of the United States.” It was not doubtful, by the way, but rather, unfounded and wholly illegitimate.

The next day, Lankford wrote to “my friends in North Tulsa” (where much of the city’s Black population resides), pleading he never intended to “disenfranchise any voter or state.” He was just, well, delaying enfranchising voters of states that selected President-elect Biden. He claimed it was his “intention to resolve any outstanding questions.” But, hey, he sees now that might be seen as “casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities.”

Lankford must be the Senate’s least-informed member, a title for which the competition is stiff. The media and his own colleagues for weeks have explained that was precisely what was going on. The president whom he supported continued to impugn the validity of votes from cities such as Detroit and Philadelphia. If Lankford truly “missed” this, then he has utterly failed to acquire the minimum amount of knowledge required of a senator. He should be ashamed of his ignorance and resign.

Nevertheless, let us assume that he was entirely ignorant of a major, widely reported story. Lankford is still lying. There were no “outstanding questions” to resolve. In more than 60 cases, President Trump’s lawyers provided no evidence of fraud that would have changed the result. If he had questions about Pennsylvania, he could have asked his colleague Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who consistently debunked challenges. Lankford is still sticking with the Big Lie, namely that there was some basis for refusing to recognize Biden as the fair and legitimate winner.

In fact, Lankford’s letter is not an apology at all. It falls under the “I am sorry if you were offended” sort of non-apology that public figures use when they want to avoid a real apology.

Lankford should have told his constituents the following:

There is no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that President-elect Joe Biden did not win the election. There was no evidence of any sort of systemic fraud, no factual basis for President Trump to claim Biden was not the legitimate winner.

Accusations, for example, that Pennsylvania “changed” voting rules fail to appreciate that the Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature back in October 2019 passed Act 77 to allow no-excuse mail-in voting. Republicans did not challenge the law; they supported it. That was the rule going into the election. If it violated the Pennsylvania Constitution, Republicans could have challenged it. When they did more than a year later and only after they lost the presidential election, the state Supreme Court took up the case. PolitiFact reported:

The case was filed as the final ballots “were being tallied, with the results becoming seemingly apparent,” the court wrote. The court’s three-page order did not address whether Act 77 and the state constitution were in conflict.
“It is not our role to lend legitimacy to such transparent and untimely efforts to subvert the will of Pennsylvania voters,” Justice David Wecht, a Democrat, wrote.
Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, a Republican, wrote that throwing out votes at this point was extreme and untenable: “There has been too much good-faith reliance, by the electorate, on the no-excuse mail-in voting regime created by Act 77.”

That background was readily available to anyone in the Senate and was reiterated by both U.S. senators from Pennsylvania. It was patently false to say there were unresolved issues.

The president, many elected Republicans and conservative media lied to voters. Trump lost the election fair and square. Undermining the results through a malicious lie is inimical to democracy and an affront to the Constitution.

Unfortunately, Lankford does not have the courage or the decency to make such a statement. It is not hard to see why. The natural conclusion of such a statement would be that Lankford himself was part of the Big Lie and should not be in public office.

I would hope Oklahoma voters whose forgiveness Lankford seeks make clear three points. First, he needs to admit his role in the Big Lie. Second, there is no forgiveness without truth, no “unity” without justice. Third, he should resign in recognition that he has failed to uphold his oath.

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