Congresswoman Maxine Waters' Statement on Remarks Made by
Senator Trent Lott
"I have joined with my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues in calling for
Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott to relinquish his position as Senate Majority Leader. The CBC
is also preparing a censure motion to be introduced on the first legislative day of the
108th Congress. Censure of a member of the House or Senate is the strongest formal
condemnation, short of expulsion. A motion of censure requires a majority vote in the
Senate to proceed.
"This action is being taken because Sen. Lott is a man whose own words and
associations show him to be an unreconstructed racist. He must not be allowed to lead the
party that controls of two branches of our government.
"During Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday celebration last week, Sen. Lott, the
incoming Senate Majority Leader, told the gathering: 'I want to say this about my state.
When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest
of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't of had all these problems over all
these years, either.' Apparently, 54 years later, Trent Lott has not gotten over the
defeat of the Dixiecrats.
"In 1948, after the Democrat National Convention adopted a plank favoring civil
rights legislation, Democrats from 13 Southern states broke away from the party.
Officially called the States Rights Party, but widely known as the Dixiecrats, they
nominated Sen. Thurmond to run against incumbent President Harry Truman. The Dixiecrats
ran on a segregationist platform that stated, in part: "We stand for the segregation
of the races and the racial integrity of each race."
"As the Dixiecrats' standard-bearer, Thurmond took the party's message to the people
of the South. During a speech in Jackson, Miss., Thurmond said: "I want to tell you
ladies and gentlemen that there's not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern
people to break down segregation and admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our
swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches.'
The Dixiecrats' strategy was to prevent either Truman or his Republican challenger, Thomas
E. Dewey, from receiving a majority of the electoral votes. Their strategy failed. The
Dixiecrats carried only four Southern States-including Mississippi-garnered only 39
electoral votes and 22.5 percent of the popular vote in the South.
"It is difficult to believe that what Lott has characterized as 'a poor choice of
words' is not what he meant, because he made a nearly identical statement 22 years ago,
according to the Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger. The newspaper reported that when
both Lott and Thurmond spoke at 1980 rally for then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan
in Mississippi, Lott said of Thurmond: 'You know, if we had elected this man 30 years ago,
we wouldn't be in the mess we are today.'
"During the same rally in 1980, Lott also agreed with Sen. Thurmond that the 'federal
government [should] keep their filthy hands off the rights of the states.' The phrase
'state's rights' has long been a euphemism for opposition to civil rights legislation, and
they did not miss the chance to send a clear signal about where they stood.
"Attempts to explain away this statement are not only shallow, but ridiculous. Sen.
Lott clearly identified his feelings about civil rights not only in 1980 and 2002, but in
a 1992 speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), an organization formed to
succeed the segregationist White Citizens' Councils of the 1960s. In Greenwood, Miss.,
Lott told CCC members: '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
"The Republican Leader has a history of not only racist statements, but also of
questionable associations. His ties to the CCC, which has filed an Amicus Brief in support
of cross burning, should leave no question in anyone's mind as to where Trent Lott's
"How many times does he get to make statements that denigrate minorities, followed by
a mealy-mouthed explanation, before we begin to understand? Trent Lott's history and
statements reveal that the nearly identical declarations last week and 22 years ago are
not accidents, but clearly a constant and integral part of the beliefs of the Republican
"I applaud Vice-President Al Gore for speaking out against Trent Lott and voicing
genuine outrage. However, I am disappointed that Tom Daschle was so quick to accept Lott's
explanation. Trent Lott's rhetoric is hurtful to all Americans and it is especially
hurtful to the party's core Democratic constituency.
That is why I believe that it is not just the Congressional Black Caucus, but the
Democratic Party, all of our leaders and all of the American people who should be morally
outraged. The Democratic Party should be up in arms; they should not hesitate to translate
their fiery rhetoric into actions that show care and concern. I expect Daschle and all of
our leaders to speak up against sentiments like this and defend the rights of minorities.
The deeply divisive and insensitive remarks of Sen. Lott deserve the strongest
renunciation by every member of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called
for Senator Trent Lott to resign
from the majority leader-elect post citing recent bigoted remarks he made during the
congressional celebration for Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday. The junior senator
from Mississippi said: "When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're
proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't of had
all these problems over all these years, either." Thurmond, the outgoing senator from
South Carolina, ran for president in 1948 on a staunch segregationist platform.
Kweisi Mfume, NAACP President & CEO, said: "Senator Lott's statement is the kind
of callous, calculated, hateful bigotry that has no place in the halls of the Congress.
His remarks are dangerously divisive and certainly unbefitting a man who is to hold such a
highly esteemed leadership role as the majority leader of the senate." Lott is
scheduled to become the senate majority leader next month when the 108th Congress
convenes. Mfume added, "Sen. Lott should resign from the position of majority