Lindsey Graham defends NASCAR, Bubba Wallace amid Trump criticism

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRon Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes Democrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick MORE (R-S.C.) on Monday defended NASCAR and Bubba Wallace, one of the sport's top Black stars, as both come under criticism from President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE.

During an interview with Fox News Radio, Graham said it "made perfect sense" that Wallace was concerned about a noose found in his garage stall. He also argued that by banning the Confederate flag at its events, NASCAR was trying to "grow" its fan base.

"What I would tell people from outside of South Carolina that NASCAR is trying to grow the sport and one way you grow the sport is you take images that divide us and ask that they not be brought into the venue," said Graham, a staunch Trump ally who is up for reelection this year.

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NASCAR announced in early June it was banning displays of the Confederate flag at its events, saying it "runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry."

Asked about Trump's tweet on Monday that went after NASCAR and Wallace, Graham told Fox News Radio's Brian Kilmeade that he didn't think Wallace "has anything to apologize for."

"Even though it was a noose created to hold the door open, in the times in which we live there's a lot of anxiety. So what did you see? You saw the best in NASCAR. When there was a chance that it was a threat against Bubba Wallace they all rallied to Bubba's side. So I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried about it being a hoax," Graham added.

On Monday morning Trump tweeted about NASCAR's flag decision and Wallace, asking if the driver had apologized over "another HOAX," referring to the noose found in Wallace's stall. An investigation concluded the noose had been in the stall for months and did not target Wallace, but photos made clear it had been found in the driver's garage.

"That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!" Trump added in his tweet.

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Trump's remarks, made weeks after both NASCAR's decision and the noose incident, comes as the president is increasingly leaning into cultural fights as his poll numbers decline.

Trump has also threatened to veto a massive defense policy bill if it includes a provision requiring the Pentagon to rename Confederate-named bases within three years. And at a speech Friday at Mount Rushmore, Trump criticized individuals who vandalized or tried to tear down monuments and statues of historical figures.

Graham, on Monday, called the president's Mount Rushmore speech "great," but stressed that Trump should try to make a distinction between protesters calling for police reforms and protesters who want to remove statues of figures associated with the Confederacy or slavery.

"The one thing I would encourage him to do is that there are voices out there that are very much part of this country that are pushing for social justice and police reform, they're different than the folks trying to remake American and destroy who we are," he said.