North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, fresh off winning the Republican nomination in the race for Sen. Kay Hagan’s (D-NC), said Wednesday he regretted how he phrased his “divide and conquer” remarks in 2011, when he called for pitting poor people who legitimately need government assistance against poor people who made bad life choices.
Just before Tuesday’s primary, new attention fell on video of Tillis saying at a town hall in Asheville, North Carolina, that we have to “find a way to divide and conquer” people who genuinely need government assistance and people who are poor by their own fault.
During an appearance on MSNBC Wednesday Tillis said he could have phrased his remarks better but didn’t walk back what he was trying to say.
“The frustration is we have people abusing the system at the expense of us being able to do more at the expense of those who need the safety net.” Tillis said. “My point was to say we need to make it very clear, government exists to help those who cannot themselves. And those who can need to let us do everything that they possibly can to let us free up those resources so we can do better things for those who desperately need it.”
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd then asked if Tillis regretted using the word “conquer” in making his argument.
“I do,” Tillis said. But Tillis added that he thought North Carolinians agreed with the point of what he was trying to say.
“I believe the citizens of North Carolina agree with it. And Kay Hagan trying to exploit it,” Tillis said. “It’s a part of their strategy memo for November, it’s a classic example of where she [is] trying to shift attention away from her failed record. I think when we have the opportunity to explain that it resonates with the citizens of North Carolina.”