Civil Rights Leaders React to Confirmation Hearing of Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions

By | January 11, 2017

Following the first day of Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing, civil rights leaders provided immediate reaction and discussed his deplorable civil and human rights record.
As reported by a coalition of organizations, Sessions’ initial Senate Judiciary Questionnaire had hundreds of concerning omissions. Despite a supplement of new entries submitted weeks later, a second report demonstrated that his application is still astonishingly incomplete. Civil rights leaders highlighted Jeff Sessions’ various omissions, mistruths, mischaracterizations throughout the hearing.
Earlier today, The Leadership Conference’s President, Wade Henderson, submitted a statement for the record regarding Jeff Sessions’ “decades-long record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants, disregard for the rule of law, and hostility to the protection of civil rights” which, Henderson argued, “makes him unfit for this position.” The statement is available online in its entirety here.
Throughout the hearings, The Leadership Conference live tweeted, follow along here.
A recording of today’s call is available here.
There will be a similar telephonic on Wednesday, January 11 following the second and final day of the confirmation hearing, details TBA.
Wade Henderson, President of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, “The first day of Senator Sessions’ confirmation hearing proved that the rushed nature of the confirmation process places senatorial collegiality over the advice and consent responsibilities that are the Senate’s constitutional duty. The American people deserve a thorough vetting of Sessions’ 40 years of public service, including a full exploration of the views that led the Senate to reject Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986 as well as the troubling voting record and views that have been on display during Sessions’ tenure in the Senate. We are confident that a more full and public airing of Senator Sessions’ views and beliefs will prove that he is unfit to serve as Attorney General.”
Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, said, “Today Senator Sessions insisted that he hasn’t changed since he was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986; that’s one place where we’re in complete agreement. Nothing he said today changes his 30 year record of pushing an extreme agenda on a wide range of issues. If anything, his arguments underscore our concerns: his willingness to double down on harsh treatment of DREAMers is deeply disturbing, and the idea that his trumped up prosecution of voting rights activists in Alabama should be considered a ‘voting rights’ case is Orwellian. Jeff Sessions is unfit to be Attorney General and the Senate should reject his nomination.”
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., said, “As the first day of confirmation hearings come to a close, it is more evident than ever that Senator Sessions is attempting to rewrite history. Indeed, today he sat in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and attempted to claim that his abuse of prosecutorial discretion in targeting voting rights advocates was somehow the act of a champion of voting rights. If he is the civil rights advocate he is trying to portray himself as, he has certainly kept it well-hidden during his 40 years in public life. In fact, throughout his entire career he has stood opposed to the principles of equality that the Office of Attorney General is charged with defending and upholding.”
Andrew Imparato, Executive Director of Association of University Centers on Disabilities, said, “We have a tradition of strong bipartisan leadership in the area of disability rights going back to the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Unfortunately, given his record as a critic of special education rights, a proponent of the death penalty for people with mental disabilities, and an opponent of US Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Senator Sessions has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of support for our civil rights. This record makes him a poor candidate to be the lead federal enforcer of the ADA and other civil rights laws.”
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said, “Sen. Sessions said today that he ‘understand[s] the demands for justice and fairness made by our LGBT community,’ but it is very clear that he intends to use that understanding only to do harm. Nothing that Sen. Sessions said during today’s hearings changes the fact that he is an extremist who is hostile to civil rights, including those of transgender people and other members of the LGBT community.”
Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel of Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “While the successful 2016 presidential campaign was characterized by vague and often troubling generalities when it comes to policy, such a lack of transparency is no way to govern or to fairly evaluate those who will govern. Sessions’ assurances that he will enforce the law cannot override a troubling record of disinterest and even contempt for ensuring that civil rights protections are vigorously implemented.”
Benard Simelton, President of Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, said, “Despite 30 years of our nation moving forward on inclusion and against hate, Jeff Sessions has failed to change his ways. He’s been a threat to desegregation and the Voting Rights Act and remains a threat to all of our civil rights, including the right to live without the fear of police brutality.”