ABC, CNN Hype NAACP's Anti-Jeff Sessions Sit-In

CNN's Wolf Blitzer boosted the NAACP's protest of Senator Jeff Sessions at his office in Mobile, Alabama. Blitzer set aside over five and a half minutes of air time on Tuesday's Situation Room to an interview of the liberal organization's president, and gave him a platform to attack the attorney general nominee. The NAACP leader even likened his sit-in to the famous 1965 civil rights march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The following morning, ABC's GMA spotlighted the protest during a 28-second news brief. [video below]

Blitzer asked just three questions during the segment with Cornell William Brooks, who called from Sessions's office as the protest was underway. The anchor let Brooks give extended answers to each of his inquiries. He first prompted the guest to "tell us more about why you're protesting the nomination of Senator Sessions." The NAACP president cited how his own organization and the left-wing ACLU have given the Alabama Republican "consistently failing grades." He also played up how Sessions "has mouthed support for the President-Elect's policy...with respect to a global ban on — I should say a ban on a global religion — namely, Islam."

The CNN journalist followed up by asking, "So, do you believe, Cornell, that the President-Elect will actually change his mind and withdraw this nomination?" Brooks included his reference to Pettus Bridge in his answer:

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: Well, it is not our position to gauge our position based on probability. It is tough, but here's what I would note: today, we had hundreds of law professors sign a letter objecting to and opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions....when you ask me whether or not it's likely; whether or not it is probable, I would simply say this: it was not particularly likely; not particularly probable that a ragtag group of civil rights activists attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge; met with resistance; and, in the face of resistance, persisted. They persisted in 1965; and as a consequence; we have the Voting Rights Act of 1965. So this is not a matter of probabilities. This is not a game of chance. But this is a matter of ensuring that the Constitution is respected, and the Constitution is enforced, and the nation's civil rights laws are enforced.....

Blitzer finally wondered if "the Trump transition team been in touch with the NAACP about possibly setting up a meeting with the President-Elect." Brooks noted some preliminary contact between the two, but then claimed that "we've not heard from them in any serious and substantive way." He soon added that "when it comes to immigration rights; when it comes to LGBTQ rights; when it comes to voting rights; when it comes to criminal justice reform; we do not have, in Senator Sessions, the kind of man we need to lead the Justice Department at this juncture in history, or at any juncture in history."

On Wednesday's Good Morning America, ABC news anchor Amy Robach gave the only Big Three network coverage of the NAACP sit-in:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now Amy has the morning's other top stories, starting with a protest over one of President-Elect Trump's nominees.

AMY ROBACH: That's right. Good morning, guys. And we are getting our first look at protesters being handcuffed and arrested at the Alabama office of Senator Jeff Sessions, President-Elect Trump's nominee for attorney general. The NAACP led the sit-in protest. The president of the civil rights group was among six people taken into custody. They want Sessions to be removed from consideration. The group has questioned his record on civil rights and voting rights.

The full transcript of Wolf Blitzer's interview of NAACP president Cornell William Brooks on CNN's Situation Room on January 3, 2017:

WOLF BLITZER: There's another story we're following tonight. The NAACP is protesting Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. His nomination to the federal bench thirty years ago was derailed by allegations he had made some racist remarks, which Sessions denied. Now, protesters are staging a sit-in at his office in Mobile, Alabama — vowing to remain there until Sessions is no longer the nominee or until they are arrested.

The president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks, is among those who are sitting in. He's joining us now on the phone. Cornell, tell us more about why you're protesting the nomination of Senator Sessions.

[CNN Graphic: "NAACP Sit-In Protesting Trump Attorney General Nominee"]

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP (via telephone): Well, we don't take any pleasure in opposing the nomination of someone to the highest law enforcement office in the land. But when we have a United States senator who has received consistently failing grades from the ACLU and the NAACP as to his civil rights record; when we have a senator who, with his one instance of prosecuting voting rights, he prosecutes three civil rights activists, who were later given the Congressional Gold Medal and not found guilty; when we have a senator who is barely — I should say — not acknowledged voter suppression, but has (unintelligible) in the midst of voter fraud. This is unconscionable and intolerable.

We have, in Senator Sessions, someone who has mouthed support for the President-Elect's policy with respect to — immigration policy with respect to a global ban on — I should say a ban on a global religion — namely, Islam. That's, frankly, something we can't support—

BLITZER: So, do you believe, Cornell, that the President-Elect will actually change his mind and withdraw this nomination?

BROOKS: Well, it's not — it is not our position to gauge our position based on probability. It is tough, but here's what I would note: today, we had hundreds of law professors sign a letter objecting to and opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions as the attorney general. We have Deval Patrick taking the same position. We have organizations across the country — citizens across Alabama — who are standing up and saying that we deserve better; we deserve different; we deserve someone who's willing to enforce all the laws on behalf of all the people from the nation's highest law enforcement office.

And so, when you ask me whether or not it's likely; whether or not it is probable, I would simply say this: it was not particularly likely; not particularly probable that a ragtag group of civil rights activists attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge; met with resistance; and, in the face of resistance, persisted. They persisted in 1965; and as a consequence; we have the Voting Rights Act of 1965. So this is not a matter of probabilities. This is not a game of chance. But this is a matter of ensuring that the Constitution is respected, and the Constitution is enforced, and the nation's civil rights laws are enforced from the vantage point of the Justice Department.

Think about this: here we are in the midst of this Twitter-age civil rights movement, where we have activists in the streets all across the country. This is among the worst possible times, and Senator Sessions would be among the worst possible nominees to hold this office at this juncture in history. And so, we can't simply determine what we do based upon the probability of it being accepted.

That being said, in 1986, the odds might not have been great then, but we were able to ensure — we with many others — that Mr. Sessions did not become a federal judge. We are as opposed to his nomination then — now as we were then—

BLITZER: Cornell—

BROOKS: We're not concerned about the odds.

BLITZER: Has the Trump transition team been in touch with the NAACP about possibly setting up a meeting with the President-Elect?

BROOKS: That has not happened. That has not happened. They've reached out to our office, I think, to get some contact information; but we've not heard from them in any — any serious and substantive way.

And I would just simply note that most attorneys generals regard the NAACP as an ally and a friend in the pursuit of justice. We are frequently consulted when it comes to these kinds of nominations and picks. But the issue here is not whether or not we received a call; not whether or not we have a meeting scheduled; but the quality of the nominee. And when it comes to immigration rights; when it comes to LGBTQ rights; when it comes to voting rights; when it comes to criminal justice reform; we do not have, in Senator Sessions, the kind of man we need to lead the Justice Department at this juncture in history, or at any juncture in history.

BLITZER: Cornell William Brooks, the president of the NAACP, thanks very much for joining us. We'll stay in close touch. We'll follow up and see what happens. If you're arrested — you and your NAACP colleagues — we'll update our viewers as well. Thank you for that.

NB Daily Appointments Trump transition Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats NAACP Protesters Race Issues ABC Good Morning America CNN The Situation Room Video Jeff Sessions Amy Robach Wolf Blitzer Donald Trump
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