LCCR Urges Senator Lott to Apologize Through Actions, Not Words

Media 12.13.02

WASHINGTON – Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil rights coalition, issued the following statement regarding the statement made today by incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS):

“In spite of a long history of showing antipathy towards our nation’s commitment to civil rights, as evidenced by his outrageous comments in praise of then-Governor Strom Thurmond’s 1948 bid for the presidency on a segregationist platform, it is now clear that Senator Trent Lott does not intend to step aside as Senate Majority Leader.

“We are disappointed that President Bush and Senator Lott’s colleagues have not urged him to step aside as Majority Leader. Despite his apologies, we remain deeply concerned that his ability to represent the interests of such a diverse nation as ours has been severely compromised. Senator Lott has apologized for his past remarks, but what matters now is whether he will speak through his actions as well. As such, we call upon him to forcefully exercise his authority as a leader to show how the depth of his commitment to civil rights by repudiating the mistakes of the past and by ensuring that the civil rights protections established over the last 50 years are not eroded.

“In particular, Senator Lott can start by advancing the confirmation of moderate appointees to the federal judiciary who are committed to safeguarding civil rights and liberties. Many of President Bush’s nominees to the federal judiciary are extremists who are hostile to Congress’ role in ensuring equal opportunity for all Americans. These include Judge Charles Pickering, Justice Priscilla Owen, Judge Terrence Boyle, Carolyn Kuhl and Jeffrey Sutton. Bringing up these and other extremist nominees would not only taint the federal judiciary for decades to come, but would also show that Senator Lott’s apology today amounted to little beyond lip service.

“Senator Lott should also use his authority to challenge an executive order, issued only yesterday by President Bush that would allow faith-based recipients of federal funds to engage in discrimination. Ironically, this order was issued on the same day that President Bush criticized Senator Lott for having supported discriminatory policies.

“If Trent Lott is to become Majority Leader, he must act as a leader for the entire nation, by demonstrating his commitment to our core civil rights principles.”

# # #