Updated Oct 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

JD Vance and Tim Ryan spar over racism in heated Senate debate

Combination images of Republican JD Vance and his Democratic rival Rep. Tim Ryan

Combination images of Republican Ohio U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance and his Democratic rival Rep. Tim Ryan. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

J.D. Vance and Rep. Tim Ryan clashed over racism during the Ohio Senate candidates' final debate on Monday evening.

Driving the news: Vance accused Ryan of "slander" and said he's "disgusting" after the Democrat claimed his Republican rival defended far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and suggested he backed "white replacement theory," a conspiracy theory that has strains of antisemitism, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment.

What they're saying: "Here's exactly what happens when the media and people like Tim Ryan accuse me of engaging in great replacement theory,” said Vance, whose wife is Indian American.

  • "What happens is my own children — my biracial children — get attacked by scumbags online and in person, because you are so desperate for political power that you’ll accuse me, the father of three beautiful biracial babies, of engaging in racism. We are sick of it," he added.
  • "You can believe in the border without being a racist."

The other side: Ryan said he's "not sure why" retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) endorsed him.

  • He insisted Vance was "peddling" white replacement theory, saying "J.D., you're on tape."
  • Ryan's campaign posted a video clip online of Vance on Twitter with the comment "JD Vance stood up for Alex Jones."

Context: The video the Ryan campaign shared featured Vance clarifying a Sept. 5 tweet he posted saying, "Alex Jones is a far more reputable source of information than Rachel Maddow."

  • In the clip, Vance says, "You'd want an elite that's willing to think outside the box, that’s willing to say, 'Well, maybe this is like a crazy idea, but maybe it's true.'"

What we're watching: The latest polling indicates a tight race for the Ohio U.S. Senate seat.

Go deeper: How Ohio's first Senate debate impacts the election

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on the video Ryan's campaign shared and with further context.

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