For Release: April 2004
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106
Black Organization Urges Senator Dodd to Resign Over Insensitive Comments; Senator Urged Punishment for Such Actions By Others in the Past
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are asking U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd to resign his seat in the wake of inappropriate comments he made commemorating fellow senator Robert C. Byrd's 17,000th Senate vote.
Senator Dodd said: "I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great senator at any moment. Some were right for a time. Robert C. Byrd, in my view, would have been right for any time."
"How could Senator Dodd have made the comments he did with a straight face? And how can he believe he's going to get away with it? Robert Byrd is a former leader in the Ku Klux Klan, and later an opponent of civil rights legislation. I can think of many places in American history where I wouldn't want him setting our nation's agenda," said Project 21 Kevin Martin. "When Senator Trent Lott made similar comments about Senator Strom Thurmond at a party, he was roundly condemned. He lost his leadership post, and almost drummed out of the Senate. What Lott said was hurtful, and he paid a price at Senator Dodd's urging. Now it's Dodd's time to face the music and resign."
In 2002, then-Senate Majority Leader Lott suggested America would be better off if Thurmond had been elected President in 1948. In that election, Thurmond promoted racial segregation, but later renounced those beliefs. United Press International columnist Peter Roff quoted Senator Dodd as saying at the time, "If a Democratic leader had made [Lott's] statements, we would have to call for his stepping aside, without question whatsoever."
Senator Byrd - first elected to the Senate in 1958 - is a former member of the racist Ku Klux Klan, where he held a leadership position of kleagle before quitting the group in the 1940s. He was against President Harry Truman's integration of the military. He filibustered and voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and against the confirmation of black U.S. Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. He is currently keeping black Appeals Court nominee Janet Rogers Brown for receiving a confirmation vote.
Martin adds: "Senator Dodd's statement is tasteless and wrong. It's time for him to follow his own advice and leave."
In 2002, Project 21 members were outspoken and critical of Senator Lott's comments, and called for him to step down from his leadership position. A press release on the topic can be found at http://www.nationalcenter.org/P21PRLott1202.html, and a commentary at http://www.nationalcenter.org/P21NVWilsonLott103.html.
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or Project21@nationalcenter.org, or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.
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