LCCR Tells Republican Members of Civil Rights Commission, “Don’t Attack the Messenger” for Report Criticizing Bush Administration’s Record on Civil Rights

Media 10.18.04

Washington, D.C. – Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), issued the following statement today responding to criticism over the release by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights of a draft report on the Bush Administration’s civil rights record. The draft report, entitled Redefining Rights in America – The Civil Rights Record of the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2004, shows that the Bush Administration has “neither exhibited leadership on pressing civil rights issues, nor taken actions that matched his words.” Rather than criticize the substance of the report, however, several members of the Commission have simply alleged that its release is politically motivated.

“The Civil Rights Commission’s Republican members have launched a completely scurrilous attack on a draft report by the professional staff of the Commission on the Bush Administration’s civil rights record,” Henderson stated. “Their outrage is misplaced. Rather than crying foul about how the draft report was released, every member of the Commission should be concerned about what it says: that the Bush Administration has a lousy record on civil rights.”

The 166-page report details how the Bush Administration has failed to break down existing barriers to equality and has done little to advance the civil rights of a number of disadvantaged groups such as immigrants, Native Americans, people with disabilities, women, and gays and lesbians. It is available to the public on the Commission’s website,

“The remarks by the Republican members of the Commission are galling, especially those of Commissioner Peter N. Kirsanow,” Henderson continued. “Kirsanow, appointed by the Bush Administration to advance civil rights, has gone so far in the opposite direction that he even condoned severe limitations on the rights of Arab-Americans in the event of further terrorist attacks. He even raised the specter of rounding up and detaining Arab-Americans, much like Japanese-Americans were locked up during World War II.”

The release of the draft report, prepared by the agency’s non-political staff, has long been anticipated. The Commission directed staff, nearly three years ago, to prepare the report now being criticized by some of the Commissioners today. It also voted in 2002 – in order to prevent leaks of draft materials – to make draft reports publicly available on the Commission’s website.

“The partisan critics of this report, which every American voter needs to see, have no standing to express surprise over its release,” Henderson concluded. “It is obvious that some members of the Commission would rather attack the messenger than confront the more troubling reality of the Administration’s abysmal civil rights record.”