Black pastors defend Jeff Sessions against accusations of racism

(ReutersKevin Lamarque)U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) looks up during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for his nomination to become U.S. attorney general on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2017.

A group of black pastors held a press conference on Monday at the Capitol Hill to defend Donald Trump's Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions against charges of racism.

"We are here today to make it perfectly clear that this against Senator Jeff Sessions is baseless and that he is more than qualified to be the next attorney general," Rev. Dean Nelson, board chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation and minister at Salem Baptist Church in Virginia, told the media, according to The Christian Post.

The allegations of racism against Sessions stem from a testimony that was made by Thomas Figures, a black assistant U.S. Attorney who worked for him, during a hearing for a federal judgeship over 30 years ago.

Figures claimed that Sessions once referred to him as "boy" and also said that the senator thought the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was "O.K. until I found out they smoked pot."

Sessions denied the allegations and pointed out to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had supported civil rights activity in his state.

Nelson recalled that Sessions helped prosecute KKK member Henry Francis Hays, who abducted and killed a black teenager.

Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor at the Hope Christian Church in the D.C. area, noted that Sessions was instrumental in desegregating schools in Alabama.

"Also, he got the death penalty for a KKK murderer. I think that would qualify you as someone who's eliminating racism, not one who is perpetrating it on anyone," said Jackson, referring to the verdict on Hays.

"Also Senator Sessions worked to bankrupt the KKK in Alabama with a $7 million judgment. It doesn't sound like he's with that side at all, does it?" he added.

Rev. Troy Towns, a pastor at Rivers Edge Church in Montgomery, Alabama, pointed out that Sessions had shown in the past that he is willing to work with Democrats to pass much-needed reforms.

Towns recalled that Sessions and Ted Kennedy worked together in 2003 to pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act. He also noted that Sessions introduced the Crack-Cocaine Fair Sentencing Act and that the senator worked with Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin until it was signed into law.

Sessions' confirmation hearings began on Tuesday in Washington D.C. Democrats are expected to oppose the confirmation, but the attempts will not affect Sessions' bid to become the next attorney general if he gets the full support of the Republicans.

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