the Media Missed in Lott's Apology
December 17, 2002
By Diane E. Dees
Not long after Senator Trent Lott began his press conference
speech on Friday, December 13, he uttered some amazing words
that apparently were not heard by any of the news reporters
present. This is what he said:
"I feel very strongly about my faith. I grew up in a local
church here. I actively participate. And as I've grown older,
I have come to realize more and more, if you feel strongly
about that, you cannot in any way support discrimination or
unfairness for anybody. It's just not consistent with the
beliefs that I feel so strongly about."
Of all the preposterous things Lott has said, this may have
been the most shocking of all, for it is so totally in opposition
to his behavior and his voting record.
He doesn't believe in unfairness for anybody, so let's look
at his voting record with regard to the striving of American
women to achieve social, political and economic equality:
He voted against CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).
He voted against the Fair Pay Act.
He voted against repealing restrictions on military base
He voted against the Violence Toward Women Act and the Hate
Crimes Prevention Act.
He voted against giving 50% of the federal share of tobacco
money to child care and after-school programs.
He was an official sponsor (with Dick Armey and Tom DeLay)
of Pat Robertson's 70th birthday party. Robertson is perhaps
the most virulent feminist-basher in the nation.
Lott also voted to confirm Charles Pickering, Dennis Shedd,
and John Ashcroft, all of whom have solid, and sometimes anti-female
A peek at Lott's attitude toward gay rights reveals this:
He opposed James Hormel's ambassadorial nomination because
Hormel is gay.
He declined a request to be a state sponsor for the Ryan
White Care Act.
He declined a request to be a sponsor of the Congressional
He declined a request to be sponsor of employment non-discrimination.
He supported the Hefley Amendment, which would have rolled
back all anti-gay discrimination bans in federal employment.
He compared gay citizens to alcoholics, sex addicts, and
He is featured in the video, "Gay Rights, Special Rights."
And, as already mentioned, he voted against the Hate Crimes
Prevention Act, which was intended to prevent gays as well
as women. And of course, there was that big Pat Robertson
So he is definitely lying when he says he cannot support
discrimination or unfairness for anybody. He has consistently
cast votes that fail to protect women on the job, at home,
and in their communities. Likewise, he has just as consistently
voted to deny protection to gay men and women, plus he has
thrown in some insults to these particular Americans, just
in case we weren't clear about where he stands.
Lott's speech, of course, was primarily about his support
of civil rights for African Americans. He sounded at times
contrite over his Thurmond birthday party remarks, and at
other times, defensive about his belief in equality. What
he didn't talk about-surprise!-was his voting record, although,
in fairness, the news media has been quick to publish the
many less than flattering highlights of that record.
When Lott was first elected to Congress by the state of Mississippi,
one of his first acts was to introduce a bill to halt school
desegregation. In the 80's, he lobbied President Reagan on
behalf of defending the federal tax exemption for racially
segregated institutions. And in both 1975 and 1980, Lott voted
against extending the Voting Rights Act. In 1990, he also
voted against the continuation of the Civil Rights Act.
Lott also opposed allowing federal judges to award payments
for attorneys' fees to plaintiffs with successful civil rights
suits, and twice, he voted against legislation to impose penalties
against people who practiced racial discrimination in housing
sales or rentals. And of course, he was the only member of
the Senate to vote against the confirmation of Roger Gregory
to be the first black judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court
Not too long ago, Trent Lott voted to confirm John Ashcroft
and Charles Pickering, two individuals with unmistakably racist
voting and judicial histories, yet the news media seems to
already have forgotten this, along with Lott's defense of
the racist policies of Bob Jones University.
One of the things the media has consistently repeated is
Lott's association with the Council of Conservative Citizens,
whose nickname is "the uptown Klan." Only 10 years ago, in
a speech to the CCC, the Mississippi senator said: "The people
in this room stand for the right principles and the right
philosophy. Let's take it in the right direction and our children
will be the beneficiaries." Obviously possessed of a very
poor memory himeslf, Lott later denied he knew anything about
To be fair, Senators and Congresspeople frequently vote in
a morally compromising way because of a number of factors-fear
of constituents' retaliation, economic concerns, points of
law. But Lott's record of voting against equal protection
for all citizens is a long and consistent one and is not open
to any interpretation but the obvious one. He does not believe
in equal protection for all citizens under the law; he believes
in equal protection for white heterosexual males.
The Senator's claim that he believes in fairness for everyone,
and that he is opposed to discrimination of any kind, is a
blatant lie. However, this lie is trumped by an even more
stunning phenomenon: the media's total failure to confront
Lott with his long record of racism, sexism and homophobia.
He is the majority leader of the United States Senate, and
if this is whom our Senators have selected to lead them, shame
on them. But double-shame on the media, who cannot bring themselves
to do anything but talk with each other ad nauseum about one
line from a speech that is merely a molecule in a drop of
dirty water frozen at the tip of a huge, ugly iceberg.