Speed Reads


7 times Jeff Sessions' critics accused him of racism

Decades ago, Donald Trump's newly named attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, lost an appointment to the federal bench after a 1986 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which witnesses accused Sessions of being too racist for the job. Sessions denied the charges: "I am not a racist, I am not insensitive to blacks," he has said. Here are seven times his critics have disagreed. Jeva Lange

1. "On the day in question, Mr. Sessions came into my office just as I was reading a newspaper account of some recent action of the NAACP. I casually mentioned that development to Mr. Sessions. Mr. Sessions in response stated that he believed the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Operation PUSH, and the National Conference of Churches were all un-American organizations teaching anti-American values. This statement clearly was not intended as a joke." [Assistant U.S. attorney Thomas Figures]

2. "One African-American prosecutor testified that Mr. Sessions had called him 'boy' and joked that he thought that the Ku Klux Klan 'was okay until I found out they smoked pot.' Mr. Sessions denied calling the lawyer 'boy' but acknowledged or did not dispute the substance of the other remarks." [The New York Times]

3. "Things that I had heard firsthand from him were things that demonstrated gross racial insensitivity to black citizens of Alabama and the United States … He has never backed off from the comments he made at that time. He has never apologized for them." [Justice Department prosecutor J. Gerald Hebert]

4. "[It is] inconceivable … that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a United States federal judge … [He has] gross insensitivity to the questions of race." [Ted Kennedy]

5. "It is suggested that [Sessions] stated to Mr. Wiley at the conclusion of a particularly contentious hearing back in 1981, 'Do not worry,' or 'do not be too happy' … 'John,' meaning Archer, 'will be watching you and the n----r,' referring to the only black commissioner in Mobile." [Joe Biden]

6. "It is indeed a sad day for both the Congress and the country when a man like Jefferson Sessions … who has made overtly racist comments, could even be nominated for the federal bench." [Rep. John Conyers Jr.]

7. "Jeff Sessions, considered too racist to be a judge in '80s, is Trump's AG. Best to go back to sleep, America. I'll wake you up when it's over. [GOP strategist Ana Navarro]