A December 9 Washington Times editorial criticized Democrats for remaining "awfully quiet" over Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) recent comments regarding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and compared this reaction to the bipartisan criticism of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's (R-MS) December 2002 comment that if then-segregationist Dixiecrat presidential candidate Strom Thurmond had won the 1948 election, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years." The Times accused the Democrats of applying a double standard.
Here's what Reid said during a December 5, 2004, appearance on NBC's Meet the Press:
TIM RUSSERT (host): Why couldn't you accept Clarence Thomas [as chief justice]?
REID: I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I don't -- I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.
Here's what Lott said at the December 5, 2002, 100th birthday party of Thurmond, who ran on a pro-segregation platform in 1948:
I want to say this about my state [Mississippi]. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. 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 stepped down as majority leader as a result of the furor surrounding his remarks.
On December 11, 2002, The Washington Post noted that Lott made a similar remark in 1980: "Twenty-two years ago, Trent Lott, then a House member from Mississippi, told a home state political gathering that if the country had elected segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond to the presidency '30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today.' The phrasing is very similar to incoming Senate Majority Leader Lott's controversial remarks at a 100th birthday party for Thurmond last week."
A December 12, 2002, Scripps Howard News Service article titled "Lott Critics Cite History as Civil Rights Opponent" documented the reasons that both Democrats and Republicans blasted Lott for his apparent endorsement of segregationist policies:
In 1982, Lott voted against the extension of the Voting Rights Act, which authorizes the Justice Department to review election law changes in Mississippi and other Deep South states and to monitor elections.
In 1983, he was one of 90 House members who voted against creating a national holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Six years later, Lott was one of seven senators who voted to abolish the King holiday commission, and in 1994, he was one of 28 who favored scrapping its federal funding.
Lott was one of 34 senators who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1990, which reversed five Supreme Court rulings that had limited the ability of minorities to win job discrimination lawsuits and damages. After President George H. W. Bush vetoed the bill, Lott voted for a different version in 1991.
And in 2001, Lott was the only senator who opposed President George W. Bush's nomination of Roger Gregory, an African-American from Virginia, to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 1999, when Lott was embroiled in another racial controversy, he had only one African-American worker, a mail clerk, out of a staff of 65.
In 1981, Lott filed a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit seeking to overturn an IRS decision to deny a tax exemption to Bob Jones University because of the school's ban on interracial dating.
In 1995, Lott criticized Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) for intervening with 39 other lawmakers to get the FBI to release documents in the 1966 death of civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer to Forrest County prosecutors.
In 1999, it was reported that Lott had spoken to and met with the segregationist Council of Concerned Citizens on a few occasions. Lott then condemned the group.
Last year, Lott and the other white members of the Mississippi congressional delegation refused an entreaty from former Netscape president James Barksdale to declare that they would vote in favor of a statewide referendum to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag. The proposal lost.