Nets Hype Dems Testifying Against Sessions Over Racism Allegations

On Tuesday, the network morning shows were thrilled by the prospect of Democratic lawmakers testifying against Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions during the confirmation hearing for the Donald Trump cabinet pick. However, none of the broadcasts bothered to recall that those same Democrats once eagerly worked with the Alabama senator on civil rights issues.

On NBC’s Today, correspondent Hallie Jackson predicted a contentious hearing: “You are seeing a GOP blitz today to try to boost support for Jeff Sessions....Already, Sessions facing fire from gay rights advocates, worried about his record, and high-profile Muslim-Americans, like Khizr Kahn, with the toughest questions aimed at Sessions’ civil rights record.”

Jackson reached back three decades to promote left-wing partisan smears against him: “That's Sessions in 1986, defending himself in his bid to become a federal judge. A bid derailed by accusations of racism. Senator Patrick Leahy voted against Sessions then and is still skeptical now.”

Wrapping up the slanted report, Jackson touted: “He is getting support, now from, for example, the Senate’s only African-American Republican [Tim Scott] and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But Democratic Cory Booker plans to take the unprecedented step of testifying against a fellow sitting senator. Also on the witness list, Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.”

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ABC’s Good Morning America followed the Today show’s lead as correspondent Mary Bruce announced: “First up...Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. You can expect his record on immigration and civil rights to take center stage. 31 years ago before the same panel Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship over concerns he made racist remarks those are charges he has passionately denied...”

While she acknowledged that Sessions would “have his fellow senators testifying on his behalf,” like Jackson, Bruce highlighted: “...in an unprecedented move, Democratic lawmakers will be testifying against him.” She noted: “Senator Cory Booker says he has to speak out because Sessions' comments are a call to conscience.”

Bruce lamented that “despite Democrats' concerns, they simply don't have the power to block any of Trump's nominees.”

On CBS This Morning, correspondent Nancy Cordes began her report by proclaiming: “Senator Sessions is considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate; and he's someone who Democrats fear will turn a blind eye to civil rights issues as Attorney General.”  She emphasized: “In a rare move, another senator, Cory Booker, will be a witness against Sessions – citing the Senator's civil rights record.” A soundbite followed of Booker ranting: “He has a posture and a positioning that, I think, represent a real danger to our country.”

Cordes offered more anti-Sessions talking points: “Sessions has criticized parts of the Voting Rights Act. In 1986, he was nominated by Reagan to serve as a federal judge, but was rejected by the Republican-led Senate after questions were raised about his views on race. He had allegedly called the NAACP ‘un-American,’ for ‘trying to force civil rights down the throats of people’....The Alabama senator is a longtime opponent of comprehensive immigration reform.”

At the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour, co-host Gayle King reiterated Democratic opposition: “Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Congressman John Lewis will line up against Jeff Sessions because of his civil rights record. Last night, Senator Booker explained why he decided to break tradition to testify against a fellow senator.”

Another lengthy clip played of Booker bashing Sessions:

We've seen, already in this county, that we are at a strike point around issues of policing; around issues of civil rights; around issues of gay and lesbian equality within our country. And we've seen consistently Jeff Sessions – as Senator Jeff sessions – voting against everything from the Matthew Shepard Act; voting against – or speaking out against key ideals around the Voting Rights Act; taking measures to try to block criminal justice reform.

Absent from any of the network coverage was the fact that Cory Booker worked with Jeff Sessions in 2015 to introduce legislation to honor demonstrators who participated in the 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. At the time, Booker said he felt “blessed and honored to have partnered with Senator Sessions” on the matter.

When it came to John Lewis’s upcoming testimony against Sessions, the morning shows seemed to forget that Sessions held hands with Lewis as the two walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 2015 as part of a march commemorating the 50th anniversary of the same march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama.   

The networks hailed Booker and Lewis for attacking Sessions on civil rights, but refused to point out their past cooperation with him on the same issue.

Here are excerpts of the January 10 coverage on the NBC, ABC, and CBS morning shows:

Today
7:09 AM ET

HALLIE JACKSON: You are seeing a GOP blitz today to try to boost support for Jeff Sessions, who is expected to face questions in particular about his civil rights record. Sessions has been a backer of Donald Trump since nearly beginning – nearly the beginning, I should say. The President-elect clearly trusting him to be the nation's top prosecutor. The question now, of course, whether he will get the Senate's stamp of approval.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Sessions in the Hot Seat; Trump’s AG Pick to Face Tough Questions at Confirmation]

After decades on Capitol Hill, Jeff Sessions will be squarely in the spotlight. The Alabama senator set to face serious scrutiny as Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, not that the President-elect’s worried about it.

JACKSON [TO TRUMP]: There is some concern about Jeff Sessions in particular –

DONALD TRUMP: No, I think he's going to do great. High-quality man.

JACKSON: Already, Sessions facing fire from gay rights advocates, worried about his record, and high-profile Muslim-Americans, like Khizr Kahn, with the toughest questions aimed at Sessions’ civil rights record.  

JEFF SESSIONS [1986]: I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks.

JACKSON: That's Sessions in 1986, defending himself in his bid to become a federal judge. A bid derailed by accusations of racism. Senator Patrick Leahy voted against Sessions then and is still skeptical now.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY [D-SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE]: I believe in a justice system that represents everybody, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your sexual orientation.

(...)

JACKSON: Sessions' hearing is likely to stretch multiple days. He is getting support, now from, for example, the Senate’s only African-American Republican and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But Democratic Cory Booker plans to take the unprecedented step of testifying against a fellow sitting senator. Also on the witness list, Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.

(...)


GMA
7:02 AM ET

(...)

MARY BRUCE: Good morning, George. This is a big moment for the new administration and the start of these marathon confirmations, ten hearings over just three days with eight nominees. First up as you mentioned Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. You can expect his record on immigration and civil rights to take center stage. 31 years ago, before the same panel, Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship over concerns he made racist remarks, those are charges he has passionately denied.

And now, Sessions will have his fellow senators testifying on his behalf. But in an unprecedented move, Democratic lawmakers will be testifying against him. Senator Cory Booker says he has to speak out because Sessions' comments are a call to conscience but despite Democrats' concerns they simply don't have the power to block any of Trump's nominees and the President-elect is confident they will all be confirmed.

TRUMP: They're going great. Confirmations are going great.

REPORTER: There's some concern about Jeff Sessions in particular.

TRUMP: No I think he’s going to do great. High quality man. Thank you.

(...)


CBS This Morning
7:12 AM ET

GAYLE KING: Senate hearings for President-Elect Trump's Cabinet choices begin this morning. Senator Jeff Sessions, the nominee for attorney general, will testify first to his Senate colleagues. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee plan to question on his record on racial issues.

Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill to bring us up to date. Nancy, good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Rush To Confirm: Sessions Faces Questions On Civil Rights Record"]

NANCY CORDES: Good morning. Senator Sessions is considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate; and he's someone who Democrats fear will turn a blind eye to civil rights issues as attorney general. But in an early release of his testimony prepared for today, Sessions is going to say that he understands the — quote, 'horrendous impact that discrimination has had on African Americans,' and that he is ready for the job.

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: I think he's going to do great — high-quality man.

CORDES (voice-over): When Senator Jeff Sessions testifies this morning, he'll go before his Senate colleagues of twenty years — both friends and foes.

SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D), NEW JERSEY (from interview on MSNBC's "All In"): I'll be testifying against my current colleague.

CORDES: In a rare move, another senator, Cory Booker, will be a witness against Sessions — citing the senator's civil rights record.

BOOKER: He has a posture and a positioning that, I think, represent a real danger to our country.

CORDES: Sessions has criticized parts of the Voting Rights Act. In 1986, he was nominated by Reagan to serve as a federal judge, but was rejected by the Republican-led Senate after questions were raised about his views on race. He had allegedly called the NAACP 'un-American,' for 'trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.'

(...)

CyberAlerts Congress Trump transition Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats ABC Good Morning America CBS CBS This Morning NBC Today Video Mary Bruce Jeff Sessions Hallie Jackson Nancy Cordes