Outrage has swept through Twitter, with calls to donate to Graham’s Democratic opponent in the state Senate race, Jaime Harrison, a black man.
On Saturday morning, a video clip of the Republican senator making the remark has been viewed 3 million times.
There were shocked reactions and accusations of white supremacy and racism to the breathtaking comments.
Charlie Sykes, editor-in-chief at The rampart, wrote: “Lindsey, 1954 wants her talking points back.”
The comment was part of a long response to a question from Carolyn Murray of the NBC WCDB affiliate: “How are you going to approach civil unrest in South Carolina?”
Graham is believed to have been attempting to argue that race is not a barrier to success in the state, citing former Gov. Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott, both Republicans.
The incident took place in a televised forum that was originally intended to be a debate between the two candidates. Instead, the two candidates were interviewed separately for 30 minutes each.
The format was changed after Graham refused to be tested for Covid-19 as requested by Mr Harrison.
After seeing the clip of Graham’s race remarks, California Congressman Eric Swalwell said, “Is it the fever talking, or the steroids? “
There is speculation that Graham fears a positive result will delay scheduled Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
After his appointment was announced, more than a dozen participants tested positive for the virus.
Suggesting that Mr Harrison asked for “special treatment” to get out of the debate, Senator Graham said he would “take the advice of my doctors and not my political opponent”.
Graham found himself in a surprisingly difficult re-election battle in the traditionally dark red South Carolina. He and Harrison are tied at 48%, according to the latest poll.
The senator has appeared on Fox News twice asking for campaign donations after donations to the Democratic nominee increased following the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Graham’s about-face over the appointment of new judges in court during an election year.
The two met in a televised debate a week earlier in which Mr Harrison hammered Graham over his record as a senator and hypocrisy over judicial appointments.