Now that Jeff Sessions is Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, you’re going to hear a lot of people dig up old accusations that Sessions is a racist. In fact, CNN did so last night. However, between the nature of the accusations and Sessions’s actual record of desegregating schools and taking on the Klan in Alabama, it strains credulity to believe that he is a racist.
These accusations all center around the bruising judicial nomination process Sessions went through in 1986. Ronald Reagan had tapped Sessions to serve on the federal bench and the Senate judiciary committee ultimately rejected him after they heard testimony that he had supposedly called the ACLU and NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired,” as well as made racist remarks. The accusations came from Thomas Figures, a black assistant U.S. attorney who worked for Sessions who said Sessions called him “boy” and had made a joke about how he thought the KKK was “O.K. until [he] found out they smoked pot.” Another prosecutor, J. Gerald Hebert, said Sessions had called a white lawyer “a disgrace to his race” for representing black clients.
Sessions’s actual track record certainly doesn’t suggest he’s a racist. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a U.S. Attorney he filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama. And he also prosecuted Klansman Henry Francis Hays, son of Alabama Klan leader Bennie Hays, for abducting and killing Michael Donald, a black teenager selected at random. Sessions insisted on the death penalty for Hays. When he was later elected the state Attorney General, Sessions followed through and made sure Hays was executed. The successful prosecution of Hays also led to a $7 million civil judgment against the Klan, effectively breaking the back of the KKK in Alabama.
Since some college aged liberals are fighting to re-segregate their schools, the above may not be a valid exception for them.