President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is using its brand-new .gov site in part to post testimonies from black people that Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is not a racist, despite his history of opposing civil rights advances.
Trump last week tapped Sessions to as his attorney general pick. In a post on greatagain.gov, titled "In case you missed it . . . civil rights & law enforcement groups are strongly supporting Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general" but no civil rights group as a whole has given its explicit backing.
Larry Thompson, the former deputy attorney general in George W. Bush's administration, recalled sleeping in the same bed in hotel rooms with Sessions "in order to stretch our limited per diems on travel to Department of Justice conferences."
He said, "You really get to know a person when you interact so closely with them," continuing "I have been an African American for 71 years and I think I know a racist when I experience one. Jeff Sessions is simply a good and decent man." He called Sessions a "friend" who "does not have a racist bone in his body."
Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, echoed Thompson.
"It’s scandalous that they’re trying to say he’s a racist," he said. "They are trying to demonize the Alabama of 2016 as somehow being the Alabama of 1946. And they are trying to similarly falsely caricature Sen. Sessions. But that is not the case."
Leah Durant, founder of the Black American Leadership Alliance, said Sessions "has been a leader in the fight for preserving American jobs and ensuring opportunities for African American workers."
The alliance, however, is far less racially progressive than its name suggests. The organization's platform is so staunchly anti-immigration that it received praise from Tea Party Republicans, who "sound[ed] downright giddy discussing their new partners," according to a Daily Beast report in 2013, shortly after the group hit the scene.
"Hate-group watchdogs have expressed concern that the organization is merely the latest in a series of minority front groups providing anti-immigration extremists cover from charges of racism," The Daily Beast's Michelle Cottle wrote at the time.
Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in the 1980s, after witnesses said he called a white civil rights lawyer a "disgrace to his race." He also opposed the Voting Rights Act, which he said was “a piece of intrusive legislation."