Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who last week announced his presidential campaign, hit back at criticism from Democrats who have expressed outrage over the congressman’s decision to appear in the New Hampshire primary before South Carolina, despite a primary calendar reshuffle placing the Palmetto State as the party’s first contest. 

Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Phillips said “anybody who thinks that somehow … that I don’t have affection for every community in this country has not met me yet, and that is part of my entire mission is to get to where people are.”

Phillips’s remarks come after backlash from top Democrats like Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who highlighted the reason for the primary reschedule was to prioritize the diverse voters who helped push President Joe Biden to a win in 2020.  

“South Carolinians have demonstrated for decades that we are good predictors of great presidential candidates. Apparently, Dean Phillips disagrees,” Clyburn posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “He’s not respecting the wishes of the titular head of our Party and the loyalties of some of our Party’s most reliable constituents.

Clyburn wasn’t the only leader to share his disappointment in Phillips. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told The Hill that Phillips’s decision is “disrespectful” to voters of color.  

“Any serious Democratic candidate would understand that Black voters are the backbone of the Democratic Party,” Thompson said in a statement.  

“By bucking South Carolina to compete in a state that will offer zero delegates and does not reflect our party’s diversity, the Congressman from Minnesota is sending a clear message: he either does not know or does not care about the political power of Black voters. His bid is fruitless, and it’s disrespectful to the voters of color that have shown time and time again they understand what it takes to win a general election,” he added.

On Tuesday, Phillips directly addressed Clyburn, who is a co-chair of Biden’s re-election campaign. 

“I’m disappointed. Mr. Clyburn, a man I admire and respect, knows better and that’s exactly the political conversation that is dividing the country right now,” said Phillips. “Anybody who knows me and will get to know me knows how much affection and appreciation I have for every community – the Black community, the Brown community, LGBTQ+ community, Jewish community, Muslim community, Christian community, Buddhist community.”

“Those who are participating in dividing by casting blame and shadow on people like me, that’s part of the problem. And I can’t wait to get to South Carolina and introduce myself. And I have respect for Mr. Clyburn, but I think that’s exactly what’s wrong. All I’m doing is appearing in a great American state that has a 103 year old tradition of assessing candidates first. That’s not making – that’s not precluding me from getting to South Carolina or Michigan, or anywhere else in the country. And that’s exactly the problem. Exactly.”