US Senate Silences Warren for Reading Letter from MLK’s Widow

US Senate Silences Warren for Reading Letter from MLK’s Widow February 8, 2017

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy, New Delhi.
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy, New Delhi.

Note: I’ve been told the links below to Mrs King’s letter don’t work. Since it’s a 10-page letter, I can’t reproduce it here. Instead go here and click through to it. It’s a historic document, and considering that it is talking about the man who is charged with enforcing our laws, a disturbing one. You should read it.


Yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren attempted to read a letter written by the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr concerning the 1986 nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship.

This same Jeff Sessions, who is now United States Senator Jeff Sessions, has been nominated by President Trump for the position of Attorney General of the United States, which is the chief law enforcement position in America. It is customary for the United States Senate to be a deliberative body in which senators, who are duly elected by the people of their respective states to be their voice in government, are given the freedom to debate without limitation.

However, the act of reading this letter, which is, among other things, a historic document, so offended the senators that they voted to bar Senator Warren from speaking on the floor of the Senate during the debate on the vote to confirm Senator Sessions as our Attorney General. I was curious as to what Mrs King might have said about our prospective attorney general to cause this outlandish behavior on the part of the Senate.

I feel that this vote is an attempt to silence, not just an individual senator, which is reprehensible enough, but is a vote to silence an idea. The idea in question is whether or not justice can prevail if we ignore the character of the people we put in power. The vote itself raises another question which is whether or not we can truly have government of the people if one of the people’s representatives can be summarily silenced for expressing ideas that at least some of their colleagues do not want to hear.

Senator Warren then read the letter on her Facebook page. Here, for those of you who are interested, is the cover letter Mrs Coretta Scott King wrote for her statement concerning the man who is the prospective Attorney General of the United States. You can read the full, 10-page statement — which is damning — here.


449 Auburn Avenue. NE. Attents. Georgia 30312 (404) 524-1956

March 19, 1986

The Honorable Strom Thurmond, Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary

United States Senate

Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: Nomination of Jefferson B. Sessions
U.S. Judge, southern/District of
Alabama Hearing, March 13, 1986

Dear Senator Thurmond:

I write to express my sincere opposition to the
confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district
court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. my
professional and personal roots in Alabama are deep and lasting.
Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States
Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the
ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts.

Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a
shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.
For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded

with a federal judgeship.

I regret that a long?standing commitment prevents me from
appearing in person to testify against this nominee. However,
I have attached a copy of my statement opposing Mr. Sessions' confirmation and I request that my statement as well as this letter be made a part of the?hearing record. I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions. Sincerely, Coretta Scott King cc: The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr. United States Senate 308 Senate Hart Building Washington, D.C. 20510

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

28 responses to “US Senate Silences Warren for Reading Letter from MLK’s Widow”

  1. Ok, I’m going to get in trouble here, but…

    Both Ted Kennedy’s comments and Mrs. King’s letter made allegations without specifics, much less evidence. Allegations made 30 years ago have been debunked and people (including African-Americans) who have known him for decades deny that he is a racist. Cory Booker makes the news, but last year he stood by Sessions praising him for a civil rights award they worked on together. Moreover, Sessions has consistently fought the KKK and promoted school integration as Alabama Attorney General. I have my own concern about Sessions support for the failed War on Drugs. But racism? No.

    You can argue that it was foolish to silence Warren. For one thing, she’s doing some wild fundraising of this event.

  2. Considering some of the other stuff Senators read into the record, I’m mystified by why they silenced her on this.

  3. I really don’t know what to say. This is 2017 and they used a 1902 law that was used to prevent fistfights in the Senate to tell a woman(and a Senator) she can’t read a letter from the wife of a great man because it brought out the past of the man nominated to be the AG of this country. The past of a nominee needs to be considered for any nominee—-and that of Sessions isn’t sparkly! He has a past of not being fair when it comes to voting rights for African Americans in Alabama. The fact that McConnell( I believe it was him) talked like a domineering male when he said that Elizabeth Warren had been “warned” but she persisted is insulting! To make matters worse, other male senators have been know to bring up unpleasant things about “fellow senators” and no one objected!! This was a deliberate call on a woman, IMO. What is unfortunate is that Sessions, like Devos will be confirmed. DT will get yet another incompetent person in his cabinet—to match his incompetency. If I sound upset with all this, it is because I am.

  4. “It is customary for the United States Senate to be a deliberative body in which senators…”

    … display a level of decorum towards each other.

    When Warren read some old words from Sen. Edward Kennedy against Sessions – “It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. Attorney, let alone a U.S. federal judge, he is I believe a DISGRACE to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position”- well, that may have been what got Warren the hook.

  5. That’s the reason being given. But it doesn’t seem worthy of the moment. This wasn’t just another senator. They were debating the confirmation of the AG. As it turns out, he’s confirmed, which gives America another questionable attorney general. The first ag under President Obama had financial ties to an abortion clinic through his wife, this time, we’ve got a chief law enforcement officer with bona fide Jim Crow credentials. Presidents try to appoint people who reflect them, or at least their values and the direction of their administration. Nuff said.

  6. I believe the Mrs King referred to actual prosecution and other government actions against civil rights workers which Jeff Sessions did when he was a federal prosecutor. Her quote was something to the effect that he accomplished with the power of his office what earlier people had done with dogs and billy clubs. It wasn’t hypothetical. It wasn’t an allegation. It’s what he did as a public official.

  7. It was a prosecution of three civil rights workers for voter fraud. They were acquited, but that doesn’t mean he acted in bad faith. Balanced against that case were prosecutions that broke the KKK in Alabama. He received an award fron the Alabama NAACP in 2009. I’m linking the Snopes site, which couldn’t bring itself to say the award was real.

    This article covers a variety of the issues, including his prosecution of the KKK, that voter fraud case, and (possible) school. desegregation cases. An Atlantic article waffles on whether they happened.

  8. I don’t know anything about it. But I take Mrs King’s letter far more seriously than I do the political apologists for President Trump. He’s a liar, and if they stick with him, it appears that his spokespeople become liars themselves. No one, that I know of, has challenged her version of events. I assume that you’ve run across someone who does. But I’ll tell you now, I’m believing her. She was a witness to the events, and her testimony about them stood unquestioned when it was made.

  9. No. It’s a statement of facts. He has bona fide Jim Crow credentials. It’s not a judgement. It’s based on fact. I realize that ignoring and refusing to believe hard facts is how people who have given over their rational thinking capacities square the fact that they claim to be Christians but refuse to stand against any evil committed by President Trump. They don’t want to say that if he’s a racist, they don’t care. So they dispute known facts and historic events and say they are lies. But this crazy behavior doesn’t make those things lies It makes the people who behave this way irrational, crazy, and from what I can see, increasingly willing agents of evil.

  10. Ted, I don’t know where you got this photo. But, without a lot more information, it is not proof of a changed heart. If there is such proof, I truly wish that Attorney General Sessions supporters had brought it forward instead of resorting to the usual Trumpian bully-boy trash tactics. But they did not. Also, I deleted your other posts with this, since you put up the same think almost a half dozen times. I imagine it was just Disqus, being weird.

  11. Came from this morning’s CatholicVote e-mail, with this caption: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, just confirmed by the Senate to become Attorney General, has been labeled as bigoted and racist. But those attacks don’t seem to make sense when you see this 2009 award from the Alabama chapter of the NAACP. (Photo courtesy Heritage Foundation).

  12. “No. It’s a statement of facts. He has bona fide Jim Crow credentials. It’s not a judgement. It’s based on fact.”

    And what are these facts which are beyond any reasonable dispute?

  13. No, not challenged, just explained. Note that Warren was originally warned over Ted Kennedy’s comments, not Mrs. King’s. My point is that an Attorney General prosecuting an indictment for voter fraud is not evidence of racism, particularly in light of his whole career. And the issue is not apologetics for Trump, but whether Sessions is a racist.

  14. Interesting. I wonder why he didn’t bring this up during the confirmation battle. I know that my move from pro choice to pro life was commented on … a lot !!! Thanks Ted.

  15. I dug deeper- seems to be scant information, but may be related to something he did to increase voter access in Alabama specifically. Snopes just has that the National Office is denying any knowledge of it and that a second photo has shown up from a staffer assigned to clean out his office in Alabama. And that they’ve contacted the Alabama branch of the NAACP for more information.

  16. That fits the national, but does not explain the local. I notice the plaque is actually shaped like Alabama, which indicates a local action. Perhaps there’s a fracture that the national group doesn’t want to admit to?

    The problem with identity politics is it leads to cognitive bias- an exclusion of any data that fails to fit the story line.

    One article I read said Senator Sessions actually included this award in his job application for AG. If so, then the information was out there long before the hearings- but because it did not fit the “all Republicans are racists” worldview, it was hidden.

  17. I saw the same article. Evidently, it didn’t mean all that much to him. I keep wondering if it was a gag gift someone gave him.

  18. Two facts:
    1) Everyone was and is free to read Mrs. King’s letter.
    2) Jeff Sessions is our new AG.