Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., defended the Republican party Sunday against charges that it has an image of intolerance and is deeply divided between tea party and mainstream conservatives.
"I'll tell you what, the GOP really has become the great opportunity party. I look at how I became Republican and the messages that I heard and received very early on as a kid running for county council in my 20s," Scott, the only Republican African-American senator, told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"One of the things that changed my life was meeting a mentor, a conservative Republican at the time. I didn't know, didn't care whether he was Republican or Democrat, but he took the time over four years to start talking to me about there is a way out of poverty that does not include athletics or entertainment, that you have an opportunity, through thinking, through business ownership," Scott said. "Having a job is a good thing, but if you create jobs, you will be better, and your community gets better."
He recalled his "first brush" with politics as a teenager, with "a conservative guy who thought that the future could be very bright for a kid in a single-parent household if he had the right tools, the right equipment.
" And he didn't convince me on one side of the aisle or the other side of the aisle; he convinced me to look in the mirror and see the best and brightest future that I could create for myself."
Host David Gregory asked Scott about the divisions within the GOP.
Debate is healthy, said Scott. "So often people look at the Republican Party and say that we're a monolith party, that we don't have multiple voices with different perspectives on the issue," he said.
"The fact of the matter is what you saw after the State of the Union is that there are many people in our party that are able to voice their concerns. The reason why the party continues to grow is because we like disparity -- we like the diversity of ideas. And when we have that diversity of ideas, it helps us to build the best party for the future.
"And certainly I'm a part of the conservative aspect -- or part of the party. And we have found very great success by partnering with folks who make our party better. So at the end of the day, what America needs is a party that is diverse as the Republican Party. That is why the great opportunities for our future comes out of the GOP."
McClatchy Washington Bureau