Lott’s Shameful Legacy Lives

Media 01.8,03

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Assailing President Bush’s decision to re-nominate to the federal bench a controversial slate of individuals with a record of hostility to civil rights enforcement, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today announced an all-out effort to oppose Senate confirmation of all nominees who have expressed or demonstrated opposition to core civil rights principles and to Congress’s historic role in protecting the civil rights of all Americans.

Citing the nominations as “deeply troubling in the wake of the Trent Lott controversy,” Wade Henderson, Executive Director of LCCR stated, “One would think that President Bush’s appropriate response to Senator Lott’s insensitive and hurtful racial comment would be a recognition that individuals like Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen do not have the civil rights qualifications for appointment to the federal bench. With these re-nominations, it is clear that President Bush’s compassion for civil rights takes second place to his compassion for the so-called ‘state’s rights’ movement.”

“Federal judges wield enormous power to shape our nation’s laws and to define Congress’s ability to enact legislation that protects our civil rights, and provide equal opportunity for minorities, women and people with disabilities,” continued Henderson. “Many of the individuals nominated by President Bush are judicial activists in the so-called ‘state’s rights’ movement that has as a primary goal the weakening of Congress’s ability to provide redress for those who have been victims of discrimination,” Henderson said.

As LCCR noted in its December 20, 2002 letter to President Bush, Charles Pickering has a shocking public record of intolerance and hostility toward civil rights. Early in his career, Pickering advised the Mississippi legislature on how to strengthen Mississippi’s ban on interracial marriage and supported a Constitutional Convention to ban school desegregation orders. As a federal district court judge, Pickering tried to pressure the U.S. Justice Department to reduce a charge against a convicted cross-burner to avoid having the defendant serve a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

“In fact, the records of many of these judicial nominees are as hostile to civil rights laws as Senator Lott’s comments were insensitive to African-Americans,” noted Henderson. “How can President Bush one day criticize Senator Lott, but the next day send to the U.S. Senate judicial nominees who have repeatedly demonstrated even less sensitivity than the former Majority Leader? The two faces of the White House have never been more at odds.”

“President Bush has now made his position on civil rights clear: As long as he talks the talk of commitment to equal opportunity, he does not need to walk the walk,” said Henderson.

“In the days, weeks, and months ahead, we plan to mobilize our communities to send our own message to President Bush and to the Senate: that hostility toward the protection of civil and human rights is at odds with our country’s fundamental principles and that individuals who do not share in the commitment to these principles should not be rewarded with lifetime appointments to the federal bench,” concluded Henderson.