11 Dec 2002 Conservative African-American Group Project 21 Addresses Lott-Thurmond Controversy
Members of the conservative African-American leadership network Project 21 are dismayed by recent remarks by incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS).
At a December 5 100th birthday celebration for retiring Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC), Lott said: “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 followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Thurmond’s 1948 presidential candidacy was based on a pro-segregation platform.
Lott since has apologized, saying his comments were “a poor choice of words” and that his praise for Thurmond referred to Thurmond’s stance on issues other than segregation.
Project 21 members hold differing views on whether Lott should resign as Majority Leader. Although no Project 21 member says Lott actually supports segregationist policies, many believe he should resign the post.
Project 21 member and syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock says: “The only people who benefited from Lott’s comments are Democrats who now have an all-purpose bogeyman. Next year will see President Bush’s tax cuts morph into the ‘Trent Lott Tax Act,’ designed to siphon money from poor blacks and hand it to rich white people in the suburbs. President Bush’s goal of individual Social Security accounts will be dubbed the ‘Trent Lott Pension Scheme’ to rob black widows and hand their pensions to wealthy whites on Wall Street. And good luck to GOP candidates who pose for pictures with Lott. They can look forward to seeing their faces beside Lott’s in campaign attack ads. What a splendid way to anger black Democrats and drive them to the polls. Lott should do the right thing and take a seat in the back of the Senate bus.”
Project 21 member Ak’bar Shabazz, a Republican Party activist, supplied his own view: “If Republicans are serious about not conceding the black vote to the Democrats, then Senator Lott must be removed from his leadership position. His presence will allow Democrats to continue to portray Republicans as insensitive to the concerns of the black community. As we continue to inform and relay the true nature of the conservatism, his words will be used as ammunition against us for as long as he’s present. We have to remove that round from the chamber.”
Not all Project 21 members believe Lott should step down as Majority Leader.
Reverend Jesse Peterson, president and CEO of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, speaking for his group, said: “We have accepted Lott’s apology and need no further explanation. He’s proven himself over the years to be a good man. Al Sharpton is thinking of running for President. I wonder if he’ll apologize for the Tawana Brawley incident and past comments he made about Jews. We are asking Trent Lott not to resign, and trust him any day over any member of the Congressional Black Caucus or Sharpton.”
Very many Project 21 members compared the criticism of Lott to that received by liberal politicians displaying racial insensitivities, citing an apparent double standard. Comments by Project 21 member Michael King reflected the thoughts of many: “Bill Clinton’s political mentors – former Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright (D) and former Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus (D) – were both rabid segregationists, yet Clinton gave Fulbright a medal and praises him to this day. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) is not only a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, but he has never gone on record as renouncing or apologizing for his involvement in that organization. Yet we are supposed to tar and feather Trent Lott?”
Project 21 has been a leading voice in the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or [email protected]alcenter.org, or visit Project 21’s web site at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.