The first African-American chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, whom Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., hired and who worked with him for nearly a decade, has come to his former boss’ defense as Democrats and media outlets raise allegations of racism.
After President-elect Donald Trump named Sessions as his choice for the next attorney general, detractors pointed back to the Alabama senator’s failure to win Senate approval after being nominated by Ronald Reagan to serve as a U.S. district court judge in 1986.
Thomas Figures, a black assistant U.S. attorney who worked with then U.S. Attorney Sessions in the 1980s, said his former colleague once quipped he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana,” and referred to him as “boy.”
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Sessions denied these allegations.
Sessions’ nomination failed 10-8, with former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter and one other Republican flipping to vote with the Democrats. Specter later said he regretted that vote after he got to know Sessions and found him to be a good man.
William Smith, the first black chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, agrees with that assessment.
“The people who are making these allegations don’t know Jeff Sessions,” Smith said Monday during an interview on Fox and Friends.
“If you look at these allegations from 1986, they come from a witness [Figures] who has been really discredited over time,” he said.
“If you look at 1996, if you look at 2006, if you look at 2016, no allegations against Jeff Sessions,” Smith noted. “These people are just bringing up false rumors just because they don’t like the policies Jeff Sessions is going to bring.”
Jeff #Sessions marching w/ civil rights icon John Lewis for Selma anniversary, because “he’s a racist”
— Matt 2AFight (@2AFight) November 19, 2016
He noted that Sessions, as Alabama’s attorney general in the 1990s, pushed to desegregate public schools and prosecuted the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, ensuring he received the death penalty in a case involving the abduction and murder of a black teenager.
When asked by Fox News host Steve Doocy if Sessions ever did anything that offended him personally, the former Senate staffer responded, “Well one time, he told me he was going to vote for Eric Holder” to be confirmed as attorney general in the Obama administration.
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