President Donald Trump’s nominee from Illinois to be ambassador to Kenya got the third degree from Democratic senators angry over his faith-based voting record on gay rights as well as an election day tweet about Hillary Clinton.
State Sen. Kyle McCarter’s nomination hearing Tuesday with the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations appeared to be one tough job interview. Despite the southern Illinois businessman’s long history of charitable work in Kenya, Democrats pressed him on a number of votes he took in the Illinois General Assembly as well as concerns McCarter has raised about President Barack Obama’s stance on refugees, a hot-button issue in Kenya, as well as an election-day tweet regarding Hillary Clinton.
“You can imagine it’s very concerning to many of us that we are sending an ambassador to Kenya who has used his pulpit to try to discourage his own country from bringing in refugees while your job will be to try to encourage Kenya,” said Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy of McCarter's comments on the country's refugee crisis.
McCarter was diplomatic in his response to Murphy, saying he respected the “grit” of refugees to overcome adversity but still justified his criticism of Obama’s open-door policy to refugees.
“My only concern with those dialogues is that, ‘is the vetting what it should be,’” he said.
One of the few positive comments to McCarter came from New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who spoke well of the nominee’s years of charitable work in Kenya. He also questioned his votes on LGBTQ rights.
“When it came to same-sex couples adopting, it appeared that you were opposing that,” Booker told McCarter. “Do you feel the sense that you really need to work hard, especially given the comments that you may have made about LGBT communities, to try to affirmatively work against the ongoing discrimination in the country you’re going to?”
Kenyan law currently outlaws homosexuality.
McCarter told Booker that he pushed for legislation to allow a Catholic institution to refuse same-sex couples to adopt Catholic children based on religious objections.
Democrats pressed McCarter hardest on a tweet from November of 2016.
“Hillary for Prison. No, really!” McCarter said.
Hillary for Prison. No, really!— Kyle McCarter (@KyleMcCarterIL) November 9, 2016
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was Clinton’s running mate in 2016. He went after McCarter, who was a Trump supporter before the primary.
“It is an assertion that would be completely contrary to the system we have,” he said to McCarter. “How does a thought like that come into the brain of somebody who is serving as an elected official in a democratic system like we have?”
The southern Illinois lawmaker expressed remorse for the tweet but appeared to choose his words carefully.
“No one should be convicted of anything that they didn’t do,” he told Kaine.