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What 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 abortions.

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 judicial records.

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 non-discrimination policy.

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 kleptomaniacs.

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 shindig.

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 of Appeals.

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 the organization.

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.

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