Following the announcement earlier on Friday of Jeff Sessions’ nomination as Donald Trump’s attorney general, multiple Democrats spoke out on his alleged history of racism and intolerance, warning that he may jeopardize the civil rights movement once he takes his post.
A report from Bloomberg described Jeff Sessions as a 69-year-old, four-term Republican senator from Alabama, and a “hard-liner on free trade and immigration.” As a conservative politician, Sessions has opposed the legalization of marijuana and pushed for prison sentencing reforms. He had also backed President-elect Donald Trump as he controversially proposed a ban on Muslim immigration into the United States.
As such, Sessions’ nomination has ruffled some feathers among Democratic officials, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who released a statement Friday in reaction to the inclusion of Sessions in the Trump cabinet.
Bloomberg quoted part of Gutierrez’s statement, as the congressman didn’t hold back when warning about Sessions and what his nomination as attorney general could mean for immigration and people of color. The full statement above also has Gutierrez describing Sessions as a “racist” who could undo five decades’ worth of civil rights progress.
“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man. No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Senator Sessions.”
Incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer was another individual who has his reservations about Sessions, expressing these doubts in a statement of his own.
“Given some of his past statements and his staunch opposition to immigration reform, I am very concerned about what he would do with the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice and want to hear what he has to say.”
These “past statements” were covered in depth by NPR, which ran a piece on his failed nomination as a federal judge in 1986. That nomination from then-President Ronald Reagan was rejected after Sessions admitted to have made racially offensive comments about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and other pro-civil rights organizations. These remarks, according to Bloomberg, had Sessions accusing the organizations of being “communist-inspired” and “un-American.”
NPR noted that this was the first time in close to 50 years that the Senate Judiciary Committee had rejected a lower-court nomination, which was made more interesting by the fact that it happened when “Republicans controlled the Senate.”
The NPR report added that Jeff Sessions had allegedly made remarks about the Ku Klux Klan being “okay” until he discovered the hate group’s members were marijuana smokers. Sessions claimed that the comments were made in jest, and also denied that he wanted to discourage African Americans from voting by bringing in a prosecution. In the end, it was the inconsistency in his statements that had led to his nomination being rejected.
“Sessions made so many damaging admissions at his March hearing that Republicans called a second round of hearings in May, and at that second hearing, his answers changed so significantly that he faced credibility questions.”
Furthermore, Bloomberg reported that Sessions has been “hostile” when it comes to LGBT rights. He had voted in favor of banning gay marriage in 2006, and had voted against the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy in 2010.
In a statement, NAACP President Cornell Brooks was emphatic in his criticism of Jeff Sessions’ choice as attorney general, as he also expressed concern about the current makeup of Donald Trump’s cabinet.
“There appears to be a pattern of insensitivity towards civil rights or hostility toward civil rights with respect to the appointments or nominees thus far.”
[Featured Image by Kevin Hagan/Getty Images]