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Discussion in 'Channel Zero' started by FourOneTwo, Dec 14, 2002.

  1. FourOneTwo

    FourOneTwo Member

    Joined: May 10, 2002 Messages: 924 Likes Received: 0
    Hoping to keep his tenuous hold on his Washington power, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott came home to Mississippi to apologize yet again for reviving memories of the old segregationist South through what he called ``insensitive'' remarks.

    ``Let me be clear, segregation and racism are immoral,'' an apologetic Lott said Friday. But he insisted his comments didn't make him any less a leader: ``You know, I'm not about to resign for an accusation that I'm something I'm not.''

    That seemed to satisfy Republicans in official Washington for now, as some of Lott's GOP Senate colleagues rallied to his side. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the incoming Republican whip, said, ``I believe the American people will accept his apology and want us now to move forward together.''

    But other lawmakers, outgoing GOP whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma among them, kept their own counsel. And several senior Republicans, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lott's survival as leader was not inevitable.

    Democrats intensified their calls for either Lott's resignation or formal punishment by the full Senate, hoping his gaffe had damaged him enough to force an embarrassing resignation or formal censure. The suggestion was first made Thursday by the Congressional Black Caucus and renewed after Lott spoke.

    ``Sen. Lott's statements were inappropriate and were really a salute to bigotry,'' said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. ``It's really difficult for me to understand how he can meet his responsibilities as the Republican leader in the United States Senate.''

    Lott, in line to become Senate majority leader in January, triggered an uproar last week when he said Mississippians were proud to have voted for South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1948 on the pro-segregationist Dixiecrat ticket. ``And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either,'' Lott added in his remarks at Thurmond's 100th birthday party.

    At the news conference Friday in his Gulf Coast home town, Lott said he was ``winging it'' with those words, saying they were not meant to convey support for racial segregation, which he called ``a stain on our nation's soul.'' Rather, he said, they marked an effort to help ``an elderly gentleman to feel good. There were no venal thoughts in my mind.''

    But Lott acknowledged he was surprised at the furor his comments caused. ``That shows you where I've done wrong,'' he said. ``I mean, obviously I had a blind spot. I was insensitive in the words I chose.''

    Several Republicans - President Bush most prominent among them - also sharply criticized Lott's statements.

    Thus far, some civil rights leaders and two Democratic senators - John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin - have called on Lott to step down as leader. But the Mississippian serves at the will of fellow Republican senators. Whatever their discomfort, none has called for his ouster, and Lott has worked hard behind the scenes to shore up support.

    Several Republican senators, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lott's office organized a conference call of GOP lawmakers following his appearance Friday. While none called for his resignation,some expressed concern about the long-term impact of the controversy on the party's legislative agenda, on Bush and on the election prospects of Senate Republicans in 2004, they said.

    A senior White House official said Lott's apology Friday was important - and different from previous attempts to lay the controversy to rest - because it would be his first on camera. Senior White House aides privately prodded Lott to make a public mea culpa; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., publicly urged him to do so.

    In addition to the public apology, Lott also agreed with Robert Johnson, the head of Black Entertainment Television, to make an hourlong appearance on BET next week to discuss opportunities for all Americans.

    At the news conference, Lott, 61, made multiple denunciations of the system of segregation that was prevalent when he was a young man in his native South. ``I have asked and am asking for people's forbearance and forgiveness as I continue to learn from my own mistakes and as I continue to grow as both a person and a leader,'' he said.

    Lott supporters in Pascagoula seemed ready to forgive, giving him standing ovations when he started and ended his news conference. A sign outside the LaFont Inn in Pascagoula, where Lott met with reporters, read: ``Trent, We Love You.''

    But he also was heckled during the news conference by Rev. Raymond Brown of New Orleans, who said he was president of that city's National Action Network, a civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Brown also marched outside with signs that said ``Lott Must Go'' and ``Trent Lott Not For American Blacks.''