Senator: Civil Rights Nominee Would Have Been Confirmed if He Was White
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin took to the Senate floor to attack the Senate Republicans and the seven Democrats that joined them to block the nomination of civil rights lawyer Debo Adegbile for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division. Harkin asserted that Adegbile would have been confirmed if he were white and not biracial.
Adegbile, the former head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, was attacked by conservatives for leading an organization that defended Mumia Abu-Jamal. The NAACP defended Abu-Jamal years after he killed a Philadelphia police officer in a death sentence appeal.
Pointing out that Supreme Court Justice John Roberts once defended a mass murder, Harkin stated “We sent a message: We have a double standard. A terrible double standard. If you are a young white person and you go to work for a law firm … and that law firm assigns you to a pro bono case to defend someone who killed eight people in cold blood … my advice from this, what happened today, is you should do that … Because if you do that, who knows? You might wind up to be the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.”
“However, if you are a young black person and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund … and you’re asked to sign an appeal for someone convicted of murder, what the message said today is, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t do it.’ Because you know what? If you do that, in keeping with your legal obligations and your profession, you will be denied by the U.S. Senate from being an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.”
President Obama went after the Senate as well, releasing a statement saying “The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant. As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules. And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him. The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice — and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant.”
(Image courtesy of Phil Roeder)