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Nevada Congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian made a historically clumsy attempt to play racial politics this week, when he claimed that he could attract black voters through his involvement with a basketball program — then “defended” himself by accusing his African-American opponent Steven Horsford of pretending to be black.

Tarkanian, a Republican, first got in trouble when told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he relates to the black voters in his district because of his basketball academy.

“My basketball academy, which is very close to the district, has a lot of players and families in that district that are in our academy now for 10 years,” Tarkanian said.

His comment upset black Democrats, who accused Tarkanian of promoting stereotypes.

“Danny Tarkanian’s use of patronizing stereotypes has no place in American politics today,” read a statement issued by the Democratic party. “Like all communities, Nevada’s African-American community will support candidates who focus on creating jobs, cracking down on the abuses of Wall Street and protecting Social Security and Medicare — not the kind of rhetoric of centuries past. Danny Tarkanian should immediately apologize for his offensive remark.”

In Tarkanian’s defense, his clumsy attempt to pander did appear to be genuine. The son of legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Danny Tarkanian is well known for his basketball-related community service in the Las Vegas area.

His response to Democratic statement, however, is pretty much indefensible.

“Should we not work within the black community?” Tarkanian asked at a GOP fundraiser. “We could be like Steven Horsford, who’s not doing anything with that community — and you know, pretend we’re black and maybe try to get some votes if that’s where it is.”

Yes, Tarkanian tried to beat back accusations of racism by declaring that his black opponent is only pretending to be black. Apparenlty nobody told him that, after Joe Biden’s “chains” remark, Republicans are supposed to be shocked and appalled by racial politics.

Video of Tarkanian’s comments are below, via Mediaite:

Horsford responded to Tarkanian’s accusation comments via Facebook:

When the Tarkanian campaign went after me for commemorating the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and when Danny Tarkanian said he would win the African American community over because of his ties to basketball, I stayed focused on the economic issues that affect Nevada families. But I can’t let his latest divisive statement stand unanswered.

I know who I am. I will never be judged by the color of my skin, but by the results that I deliver for all people. Tarkanian has proven that he is bankrupt in more than one way, and it’s time he takes responsibility for not only his actions but also his words. I am simply disappointed in Danny Tarkanian. I will remain focused on the issues that struggling families are dealing with just as I have for the last 39 years of my life.

The most recent poll on the race, which was conducted in July, showed Tarkanian leading Horsford by six points.

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