Senate Majority Project

Monday, October 31, 2005


This morning, CNN turned to Senator Jeff Sessions to comment on Rosa Parks memorial. His glowing comments about Parks, and the civil rights movement, rang a little hollow since prior to becoming a United States Senator he was the only Reagan judicial nominee denied by a Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee. His rejection was in large part because of discomfort over Sessions racially-charged statements, disagreement with mainstream interpretations of the Voting Rights Act, and racially-slanted prosecutions for voting fraud.
  1. In 1984, as a United States Attorney, Sessions unsuccessfully prosecuted a former aide of Rev. Martin Luther King, Albert Turner, alleging voter fraud. [Washington Post 6/6/1985] Turner was one of three civil rights activists whose voter registration drives in black counties attracted notice of white Alabama Republicans as the percentage of African American voters registered in the counties began to increase. Sessions launched an investigation of these counties, but not other predominantly white counties, after the 1984 election. After an exhaustive investigation and several interrogations of African American voters, Sessions could point to just 14 bad ballots out of 1.7 million cast. When the matter came to court, Turner was acquitted in less than four hours. [Wildman, The New Republic, 12/30/2002]

  2. During his unsuccessful confirmation, Sessions admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a "piece of intrusive legislation," a phrase he stood behind even in his confirmation hearings. [Wildman, The New Republic, 12/30/2002]   Today, however, Sessions praised the Act saying: "the Voting Rights Act really fundamentally changed so much of what occurred in the South. People were surreptitiously and systematically, in some cases just blatantly, denied the right to vote in the South. That has been eliminated, of course, by the Voting Rights Act." [CNN Breaking News, 10/31/2005]

  3. Finally, according to sworn statements by Justice Department lawyers, Sessions called the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union “un-American” and “communist-inspired” and said they “force civil rights down the throats of people.” He also reportedly said of the Ku Klux Klan, “I used to think they’re OK,” until learning that some Klan members were “pot smokers.” Sessions said the remarks were in jest or had been misinterpreted. [1996 Congressional Quarterly Profile]
Before praising civil rights leaders, Sessions should revisit his own civil rights record.