'The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country,' says Nebraska state senator

Nebraska State Sen. John McCollister called out the Republican Party through a string of comments on Twitter following shootings in Ohio and Texas that left 31 people dead. (WOWT)
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A Republican state senator from Omaha on Monday stood by statements he made on Twitter blasting his party for "enabling white supremacy in our country" and calling on the state's all-GOP congressional delegation to speak out against President Trump's inflammatory comments about minorities.

Sen. John McCollister, a moderate Republican from Omaha, made the comments in a series of six tweets Sunday evening in response to weekend mass shootings in Ohio and Texas that left 31 dead. Officials have said the suspect in the El Paso, Texas, shooting posted an online diatribe against immigrants before that shooting.

"We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base," he said in one of his comments posted on Twitter on Sunday evening.

McCollister stood by the comments Monday.

"Just the fact that it’s continuing to happen. I think that’s (the tweets) the proper response," he told 6 News in a phone interview.

McCollister says the shooting was a "tipping point" for him to call out his party, although he doesn't plan to leave it.

"I’m a lifelong member of the Republican Party — in fact, my family has been involved in party politics in Nebraska for 50 years," he said. "In fact, my dad was in the House and went to the White House and persuaded Nixon to resign, so it’s been in our family for that length of time."

McCollister is the son of former Nebraska U.S. Rep. John Y. McCollister, a Republican who served from 1971-1977.

Nebraska is not immune to the sort of violence seen over the weekend, he said.

"It happens anywhere in the country, even in Nebraska," he said. "I think back to the Von Maur incident — though I don’t think it was prompted by any white supremacy activity. But that is something that is occurring throughout the entire country, and I think we need to guard against that in Nebraska as well."

The response on social media has been somewhat surprising, McCollister said Monday morning. The number of followers on his Twitter account has risen from 650 to more than 10,000 as of 12:30 p.m. Monday.

"The response has been overwhelming," he said. "Yes, I’ve gotten a couple negative comments, but not as many as I expected to receive."

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts defended the Republican Party from criticism by the state senator, calling the critique by McCollister "baseless" in a Twitter post Monday afternoon.

Ricketts didn't mention McCollister by name in his post, but said the GOP doesn't tolerate hateful views. He said white supremacy and racism have no place in the country and "must be driven out."

Ricketts and McCollister have been at odds before, despite sharing the same party affiliation. McCollister has criticized the Ricketts administration's handling of a voter-approved mandate to expand Medicaid in Nebraska.

State officials under Ricketts say they're being cautious and prudent.

6 News contributed to this report.