WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia espoused racist opinions in questioning a case about affirmative action, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) charged Thursday in a Senate floor speech.
In oral arguments over the case Fisher v. the University of Texas Wednesday, Scalia suggested African-American students would do better at "slower-track schools" than UT. He added that black students come from "lesser schools, where they do not feel that they're being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them."
"I don't think it stands to reason that it's a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible," Scalia said.
Reid pointed out all of those arguments and then hammered the conservative justice.
"These ideas that he pronounced yesterday are racist in application, if not intent," Reid said.
"It is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation's highest court," he added, just getting warmed up.
"His endorsement of racist theories has frightening implications, not the least of which is undermining the academic achievement of Americans, African-Americans especially."
The Nevada senator also linked Scalia's statements to the rhetoric of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and other Republicans who have called for barring Muslims from the United States.
"The only difference between the ideas endorsed by Trump and Scalia is that Scalia has a robe and a lifetime appointment," Reid said. "The idea that African-American students are somehow inherently intellectually inferior to other students -- despicable."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) joined in condemning Scalia's comments Thursday afternoon, calling them "illogical" as well as "dangerous, shortsighted and detrimental for our increasingly diverse nation."
"[T]he United States has not yet overcome the legacy of slavery and segregation that led to the creation of affirmative action in the 1960s," he said in a statement. "Affirmative action is a policy that remains as relevant today as it was then."
"It is insufficient and disingenuous for courts to single out race as a disqualifying variable when so many other variables and preferences are deemed acceptable in the university admissions process," he added.
Update: This article has been updated to include comment from Rep. Elijah Cummings.