June 6, 2009

This is rich. Dana Bash apparently doesn't know the difference between being a blatant racist and the trumped-up, partisan charges of racism lobbed at Sonia Sotomayor by the likes of Gingrich, Tancredo, Limbaugh and Hannity. Bash gives Jeff Sessions a softball interview where he claims he can feel Sotomayor's pain over being accused of being a racist since he's gone through the same thing himsef. Bash however, fails to fully explain just why Sessions was accused of racism.

Steve Benen has more:

Characterizing these as relative equivalents is silly. The attacks on Sotomayor are baseless and easily debunked. The charges against Sessions 23 years ago were based on extensive facts, an outrageous pattern, and were bolstered by a lengthy record.

As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama, Sessions' most notable effort was prosecuting three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.

Also during his illustrious career in Alabama, Sessions called the NAACP "un-American" because it, among other groups, "forced civil rights down the throats of people." A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance when he referred to a white attorney as a "disgrace to his race" for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but claimed to have been joking.

What's more, Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he "used to think they [the Klan] were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers." Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him "boy," and once warn him to "be careful what you say to white folks."

How is this in any way similar to the attacks on Sotomayor? It's not. The CNN report, which includes extensive quotes from poor Sessions, and precious little about why he was accused of racism in the first place, is woefully incomplete.

Transcript below the fold.

BASH: Well, you know, 23 years ago today, the Senate Judiciary Committee took a rare step and they voted to keep a Reagan judicial appointee off the federal bench. Well, now as that same committee considers President Obama's first Supreme Court pick, the man it wants blocked is back -- big time.

Listen in to what Republican Jeff Sessions told the Democratic president Supreme Court nominee.

SESSIONS: You will get a fair hearing before this committee.

BASH: He is so emphatic because of his own experience. Twenty- three years ago, Sessions was nominated by Ronald Reagan to be a federal judge, but was rejected.

SESSIONS: I am sorry that the Senate Judiciary Committee did not seem fit to find me qualified for it.

BASH: He's now the top Republican on that very committee.

SESSIONS: That is a very odd thing. Somebody says it gives new meaning to the word "irony."

BASH: Irony bringing back memories he tries to forget.

SESSIONS: It was not a pleasant event. I got to tell you. It was really so heart-breaking to me.

BASH: Then, a 39-year-old Alabama U.S. attorney, Sessions was accused of racial insensitivity, calling a black lawyer "boy," a white lawyer a disgrace to his race and civil rights groups like the NAACP un-American. He was pounded by Democrats like Joe Biden.

SESSIONS: They may have taken positions I consider to be adverse to the security interests of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that make them un-American?

SESSIONS: No, sir, it does not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Does that make the positions un- American?

BASH: Some Democratic senators Sessions now serves with called him racist.

SESSIONS: That was not fair. That was not accurate. Those were false charges using distortions of anything that I did. And it really was not. I never had those kinds of views, and I was caricatured in a way that was not me.

BASH: Sessions went on to win a Senate seat in 1996, but the allegations still sting.

SESSIONS: I think it was hard on me.

BASH: The parallel to today, some Republicans changing Sotomayor as a racist, is eerie. When you hear that, you hear Ted Kennedy and other Democrats going through your head saying Jeff Sessions is a racist?

SESSIONS: You know, that's such a loaded word, and I don't think it's appropriate.

BASH: Sessions will ask tough questions about deep differences with Sotomayor on judicial philosophy. But also hopes to use her hearing to close the door on a painful part of his past.

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