Both conservatives and liberals have called for the resignation of Trent Lott (R-MS) as incoming Senate Majority Leader following his racist remarks last week. At retiring Senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration, Lott said that the country would have been better off if Thurmond had won his presidential race in 1948, according to FOX News. Thurmond ran as a segregationist candidate, leading many to argue that Lott was indicating his support for racist policies. Lott has faced sharp criticism from members of the Black Congressional Caucus, the right-wing Family Research Council, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. In addition, a New York Times editorial, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The National Organization for Women (NOW), and prominent Democrat John Kerry (D-MA) called for Lott’s resignation as Republican leader in the Senate. The White House has issued a statement saying that Lott continues to “unquestionably” have President Bush’s confidence as Senate leader, according to CNN.
Lott’s most recent racist remarks are only the latest in his history in politics. In 1980, he made similar remarks at a campaign rally for Ronald Reagan, saying “You know, if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today,” according to CNN. A statement issued by Lott’s office asserts that this remark was taken out of context, CNN reports. As House Republican Whip in 1981, Lott filed an amicus brief on behalf of Bob Jones University, arguing that the school’s racial discrimination in banning interracial dating should not affect their tax-exempt status, according to the Associated Press.
Lott is also known to be an opponent of women’s rights. According to NOW, he recently offended women when former Senator Bob Dole offered to introduce Strom Thurmond to singer Britney Spears, with whom Dole co-starred in a Pepsi commercial. NOW reports that Lott added, “Instead of saying, ‘Down, boy,’ you just say, ‘Down Strom’.” In Congress, Lott is firmly against women’s reproductive rights, and is putting the so-called “partial-birth” abortion ban at the top of his agenda in January. The phrase “partial-birth” abortion is an inaccurate and inflammatory term invented by the right wing. “Partial birth” abortion does not refer to any particular medical procedure and the term is not recognized in the medical community, according to the College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Abortion procedure bans such as these aim to outlaw or significantly chip away at a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal medical procedure.