Truth may be stranger than fiction, but we South Carolinians have learned of late that the truth can also be hard to disentangle from fiction. Especially when truth wears the mask of duplicity or when fiction dolls herself up as truth. I have been pondering this conundrum for several weeks now, after the second of two bombshell revelations involving State Rep. Krystle Matthews (D-S.C.), who was audiotaped by Project Veritas, spewing a racially explosive diatribe about her own white constituency. It will almost certainly destroy her political career, though for the moment she has not resigned her State House position and remains in the race for a U.S. Senate seat against the Republican incumbent, Sen. Tim Scott.
The Democrat Matthews is political small-fry in a state dominated for almost half a century by Republicans, but her dramatic implosion raises big questions about how anti-white racists manipulate to their advantage a system that is, according to their own oft-repeated claims, systemically racist.
Matthews made her debut on the political scene in 2018 when she defeated a Republican incumbent, Bill Crosby, by a handy majority in the District 117 race, making capital off of her status as a single black mom of five children who, as she tells the story, worked herself out of humble beginnings in Sandusky, Ohio, to become an “engineering planner” for Boeing Inc. in North Charleston. District 117 is roughly 49 percent white and almost 30 percent black.
In 2020, Matthews held her seat—again by a healthy majority—against a challenge from Republican Jordan Pace. Then, early in 2021, she announced her intention to run for the U.S. Senate against Tim Scott. This move raised a few eyebrows, since outside her own district she had little name recognition and Scott is probably the most admired Republican in the state.
Matthews seemingly couldn’t resist the allure of stepping out onto the national stage. Disaster, however, was already waiting in the wings. Maybe the attractive, buxom Matthews was frustrated that her long-shot campaign wasn’t exactly raking in the sort of swag that a Senate run requires. Whatever the reason, she engaged in a telephone conversation in February 2022 with David Solomon Ballard, a black inmate in the Perry Correctional Institution, in Pelzer, S.C., who was convicted in 2018 of threatening the life of a public official and resisting arrest in Aiken County, S.C. Whether Matthews had some previous acquaintance with Ballard is unclear. What is certain is that, in their conversation, Matthews assumes that Ballard shares her political goals and has the sort of connections that might benefit her campaign.
“We need some secret sleepers. We need them to run as [Republicans] even though they’re for our side, and we need them to win,” Matthews said.
While Matthews is perfectly capable of conversing in standard English, in this instance she slips with practiced ease into homegirl rap. Complaining about her financial problems, she says,
Where the f*** is my black people with money? I don’t care about no dope money! Give me that dope-boy money! … Where the duffle-bag boys? Get you—find me somebody from your family that don’t even know you donating to my campaign and put that s*** under they names.
But she has more on her mind than dope-boy money: “We need somebody who understands street gangs that we can clean up and put in a f***ing suit. … Where’s the gangstas? Where the street n***as at?” In short, this is a recruitment pitch for gang members who can be used to “infiltrate” the local Republican Party. “We need some secret sleepers. We need them to run as the other side even though they’re for our side, and we need them to win,” Matthews said.
Presumably, Matthews assumed that the conversation was strictly private, but Ballard must have known that they were being recorded (as are all prisoner telephone exchanges in South Carolina), though why he failed to alert her is a puzzle. The State newspaper in Columbia released audio of the leaked phone call, which reveals that there was a third party who played a small part in the exchange, someone possibly named Ayesha, though it is difficult to decipher, given the audio’s poor quality.
Project Veritas indicated that they had received the tape just three days after the phone conversation had taken place. It was made available to the public just a few days before Matthews’s runoff election against Catherine Fleming Bruce, her black opponent in the Democratic primary bid to unseat Sen. Scott. It seems the leak must have come either from within the South Carolina Department of Corrections or from GTL, the state’s “Inmate Telephone System Services Provider”—unless, of course, “Ayesha” was a plant and made a private recording.
In the aftermath, Matthews told Charleston’s Live 5 News that the conversation was merely “tongue-in-cheek” and that she had no idea she was speaking to an inmate. Am I wrong in thinking that Matthews must have been smoking something more potent than rabbit tobacco when she made the call? Who exactly did she think she was talking to? She doesn’t say. But whichever way you spin it, she was proposing to commit illegal acts.
Even worse, Matthews allegedly already had at least one “duffle-bag boy” working for her campaign at the time the call was recorded. According to a May 2 report in The Washington Free Beacon, Jason Belton, her self-described campaign manager, was arrested in 2018 in South Carolina by federal authorities in connection with his alleged involvement with a drug ring in Southern California. The charges are still pending. Although he was ordered by the court to wear a GPS ankle monitor, this didn’t stop him from launching a firm called C&J Consulting, under the auspices of which he and his partner run Matthews’ campaign and carry on lobbying activities at the State House in Columbia, where he is also associated with the state’s Democratic Black Caucus as its vice chairman, according to Fits News, a prominent online political journal in Columbia.
His partner, Craig Khanwell, is a known follower of “The Minister,” Louis Farrakhan, and a virulent anti-Semite. In a March 1, 2018 Twitter exchange with some Jews, he rants, “You have the unmitigated gall to say that conversing with [the followers of The Minister] makes you feel dirty, with 463 years of blood dripping from your mouths and actions as it relates to the darker people of the earth. Your stench have [sic] reached GOD’s nostrils! Now you must reap what you have sown!”
I don’t know about God’s nostrils, but there certainly is a dirty stench emanating from the Matthews campaign.
It is impossible to believe that Matthews was somehow unaware of her campaign manager’s past and present associations. Indeed, in June, in the immediate aftermath of the leaked conversation with Ballard, she launched a Facebook virtual campaign to support her bid against Tim Scott. Both Belton and Khanwell were conspicuously present on screen for the kickoff—Belton attired in shorts and a tank top (no GPS ankle strap in view), Khanwell spouting off about how the Greek word “demos” at the root of “democracy” is etymologically related to the term “demon.” He asks: “Do we want a government that is the rule of, for, and by the people, or the rule of demons in human form?”
Hmm … Is he suggesting that a vote for Tim Scott is a vote for demonic rule? In any case, such grotesqueries are at least far more entertaining than listening to Sen. Scott’s Republican pablum, which is enough sometimes to make one long for a little demonic excitement.
At this juncture, just as one might think that Rep. Matthews couldn’t possibly plunge any deeper into South Carolina’s malodorous Lowcountry pluff mud, she found herself once again in the clutches of Project Veritas. Sometime prior to Sept. 7, she was approached by a young man calling himself “Chris Williams,” presumably an undercover Project Veritas “citizen journalist,” who convinced her that he was interested in joining her campaign. Shortly thereafter, she agreed to meet in a café, and the two of them engaged in some revealing repartee. Then again, perhaps repartee is not quite the right term, since the impostor Williams has little to say other than to adeptly nudge Matthews to the edge of political suicide, from which she happily flings herself over.
Discussing her success in a district that is almost 50 percent white, she states, “I’m no stranger to white people. I come from a mostly white town.” Then she steps off:
You gotta treat them like s***, like I mean, that’s the only way they’ll respect you. … I keep them right here, like right under my thumbs. That’s where I keep it … like, you have to … Otherwise they get outta control, like kids. So, like for me, I know other people are tiptoeing around them. And I’m like, yo, that’s some white s***. I ain’t doing that.
Presumably, there is a good deal more on the audio, but this is the part that Project Veritas chose to release to the media. As you can imagine, within 24 hours virtually every newspaper and television outlet in the state ran with it. A number of prominent pols, including Tim Scott, leapt to denounce her “attitude.” On the Democratic side, only State Rep. Justin Bamberg and gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham called for Matthews to drop out of the race against Scott. Perhaps not surprisingly, neither Congressman Jim Clyburn nor anyone else on the South Carolina Black Caucus has made a public statement denouncing their colleague’s rash remarks.
Once again on the ropes, Matthews called a press conference in North Charleston on Sept. 9 at the Positive Vibes Ronjanae Smith headquarters, a nonprofit named after a 14-year-old teenager gunned down last year in gang crossfire. Matthews’ choice of venue in this instance is rich indeed given her chummy relations with the “goon squad,” as she calls them. Standing in front of a cheesy mural with cellphone in hand, she read off the screen a pro forma apology, then launched a bizarre fusillade against her various attackers.
Her only real attempt at a plausible defense is a claim frequently made against Project Veritas, that the audiotape was deviously spliced—in this case to make her look like an antiwhite racist: “What they did was cut one sentence and put it with the s-word to make it sound like I said [my white constituents] were [sh**].” In fact, she insists, she was referring to her “colleagues” in the State House, and in particular her “MAGA” Republican colleagues. Growing more defensive and incoherent with every question, she states, “I wasn’t talking about white people; I was talking about Republicans!”
But what has been most striking about Matthews’ attempts to justify her comments on both audiotapes is her suggestion that it is not she but her critics who are racists.
It’s the leadership in South Carolina that doesn’t want me to succeed. This has very little to do with most of us everyday folks. … They don’t want someone that’s unafraid and unapologetic when it comes to fighting for families, exposing the toxic politics that they continue to perpetuate by fighting to hold seats and not make change, just to stay in power.
She goes on to pay back Bamberg for suggesting that she step down, and she likewise shames Cunningham for “attacking a black woman.”
And this, it should be clear, is an example of what Matthews meant when she claimed so proudly that she keeps her white folks “under her thumbs.” Racial intimidation is how she and many other black politicians in America get and maintain power, combining the taken-for-granted black votes with the votes of guilt-ridden whites. If their legislative initiatives fail, then it’s always the “toxic” white (or black!) demons that are to blame. White Democrats, she told David Ballard, “can’t wait to have black representation. When we get enough of us in there, we can wreak havoc from the inside out.”
Keep talking, Krystle. Bring all those secret plans into the light of day.