Coretta Scott King spoke out against now-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) when he was nominated for a federal judgeship in 1986. But if she were alive today to see him nominated for attorney general, White House press secretary Sean Spicer hopes she would have changed her mind.
“I would respectfully disagree with her assessment of Senator Sessions then and now,” Spicer said on Wednesday. “I can only hope that if she was still with us today, that after getting to know him and to see his record and his commitment to voting and civil rights, that she would” regret her opposition.
In a letter she wrote at the time, King said that Sessions “lacks the temperament, fairness, and judgement to be a federal judge.” Sessions, who has joked about supporting the KKK and once referred to a black colleague as “boy,” was denied the judgeship. Whereas King marched alongside her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for voting rights, Sessions has referred to the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive.”
Sessions also infamously fought to prosecute three civil rights activists for voter fraud in a case that former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who worked on the case, called a “cautionary tale” of “what can happen when prosecutorial discretion is unchecked, when regard for facts is secondary to political objectives.”
Spicer called Sessions’ record on civil rights “outstanding.”
On Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attempted to read King’s letter on the Senate floor but was shut down by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren said.