John Ashcroft’s “Horrendous” Civil Rights Record

John Ashcroft’s “Horrendous” Civil Rights Record

As Governor, Senator And Attorney General, Ashcroft Has Been Bad On Civil Rights Issues

As Attorney General, one of John Ashcroft’s most important duties is to enforce the nation’s civil rights laws. However, Ashcroft’s own record on civil rights is highly suspect. One critic characterized Ashcroft’s civil rights record as “about as sensitive as a hammer blow to the head.” Ashcroft opposed anti-discrimination legislation and opposed gathering racial profiling statistics. He refused to sign a 1988 report on minorities, saying it was “too negative,” accepted an honorary degree from Bob Jones University and has contributed to Southern Partisan magazine. Ashcroft suggested that Clinton ambassador nominee James Hormel’s conduct was substandard because he was gay. And Ashcroft “launched an all-out campaign” to defeat the appointment of Judge Ronnie White, who is black, to the federal bench on the flimsy pretense that he was “pro-criminal.”

Ashcroft Lauded Southern Partisan. According to Time columnist Jack White, Ashcroft lauded “the neo-segregationist magazine Southern Partisan,” citing “the publication’s ‘heritage of defending Southern patriots’ from the Civil War such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis.” Ashcroft also lauded the efforts of the “rightwing magazine … for helping to ‘set the record straight’ on the Civil War.” Ashcroft continued his interview, saying “We’ve all got to stand up and speak in this respect, or else we’ll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda.” [White column, Time, 1/8/01; Los Angeles Times, 1/01/01; London Guardian, 1/3/01; Crouch column, New York Daily News, 1/8/01; USA Today, 12/28/00; Associated Press, 12/28/00; Washington Post, 2/18/00]

Southern Partisan Magazine Focuses on the Confederacy, Has Printed Racist Theories And Given David Duke Positive Coverage. Southern Partisan magazine is a 20-year-old publication that has featured articles defending Confederate figures and the Confederacy, and once sold t-shirts, according to the Associated Press, “commemorating Abraham Lincoln with the phrase his assassin uttered, ‘Thus always to tyrants.’” According to an analysis by the Missouri Citizen Education Fund, Southern Partisan “supported South African apartheid, prints racist theories presented in ‘The Bell Curve’ and gives positive coverage to former KKK leader David Duke.” [White column, Time, 1/8/01; Los Angeles Times, 1/01/01; London Guardian, 1/3/01; Crouch column, New York Daily News, 1/8/01; USA Today, 12/28/00; Associated Press, 12/28/00; Washington Post, 2/18/00]

Ashcroft Accepted Honorary Degree from Bob Jones University. In 1999, Ashcroft accepted an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, which critics have called racist and anti-catholic. Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status in 1970 for refusing to admit African-Americans. The school then changed its policy but still prohibited any interracial dating or marriage. The school did not lift its inter-racial dating ban until March 3, 2000 after presidential candidate George Bush’s appearance at the school brought national scrutiny. In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court supported an IRS decision to remove tax-exempt status from the school for its dating policy, which included rules such as “students who date outside their own race will be expelled.” In 1998, James Landrith, who is white, tried to apply to the school even though he is married to an African-American woman. According to NPR, Landrith received this response to his application: “I noticed on your application that you are interracially married. Bob Jones University does not endorse this. It would be no problem for you to be a student here as long as your wife was not or vice versa.” [Teepen column, Dayton Daily News, 1/2/01; The Tax Lawyer, Winter 1984; World News Digest, 5/27/83; NPR, 4/15/99; CNN, “Larry King Live,” 3/3/00; Associated Press, 3/5/00; Globe and Mail, 3/9/00]

Ashcroft’s Record on Racial Issues “Horrendous.” Columnist Jack White summed up Ashcroft’s record on civil rights and race issues as “horrendous,” and called his stances on civil rights issues “about as sensitive as a hammer blow to the head. … Ashcroft has been on the wrong side of every social issue from affirmative action to hate-crimes legislation and women’s rights.” According to the Washington Times, Ashcroft “received a grade of ‘F’ on each of the last three NAACP report cards because of his anti-progressive voting record, having voted to approve only three of 15 legislative issues supported by the NAACP and other civil rights groups.” [White column, Time, 1/8/01; Washington Times, 1/2/01]

Ashcroft Opposed Approval of Ronnie White to Federal Bench. Ashcroft waged an all-out campaign to defeat the nomination of Missouri’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Ronnie White, to the federal bench. Ashcroft seriously distorted White’s record, portraying it as pro-criminal, and anti-death penalty, and even suggested that “the judge had shown a tremendous bent toward criminal activity.” Critics called the charges “outright slander” and “flimsy,” and pointed out that White “had voted to uphold the death sentence in 41 of the 59 cases that came before him, roughly the same proportion as Ashcroft’s court appointees when he was Governor.” [London Guardian, 1/3/01; New York Newsday, 1/3/01; Washington Post, 1/1/01; Kansas City Star, 1/3/01; Boston Globe, 1/3/01; Shelly column, Kansas City Star, 12/28/00; White column, Time, 1/8/01; editorial, Chicago Tribune, 1/7/01]

Ashcroft Refused to Sign Report on Improving Lives of Minorities. Ashcroft was one of two members of a commission on America’s minorities who refused to sign a final report which said that the nation was slipping in efforts to achieve equality for blacks, Hispanics and Indians. The report, “One.Third of a Nation” by the Commission on Minority Participation, proposed a 20.year effort to close the gap between the races in income, education and other areas. Ashcroft indicated he found the report, which said that America had not only “lost the momentum of earlier minority progress” but suffered reversals in the drive for full equality, “too negative.” Ashcroft’s office issued a statement saying that, “He (Ashcroft) could not fully subscribe to the commission’s final report because of its inordinate emphasis on federal government programs as compared to the crucial initiatives of individuals, states and localities.” [Associated Press, 5/24/88; UPI, 5/24/88; London Guardian, 1/3/01; Washington Post, 1/1/01]

Ashcroft Opposed Anti-Discrimination Legislation. In 1996, Ashcroft opposed legislation that would prohibited discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation. “I believe when we consider enacting legislation that gives special standing to a particular category of conduct, that sends a signal that says that conduct is to be elevated, it is to be approved…In my view, it is clear that the signal we send in this bill is the wrong signal. It contains seed of real instability and inappropriate activity…,” said Ashcroft. [Congressional Record, 9/6/96, S9999-S10001; S10005]

Ashcroft Said Homosexuals Died Because of Their Lifestyle. In 1996, Ashcrof said that homosexuals died because of their lifestyle saying they met an early death “in part as a result of the practice, I believe, of their lifestyle, and it is a tragedy.” [Congressional Record, 9/6/96, S10000]

Ashcroft Supporting Keeping Homosexuals Out of the Boy Scouts, the Military. In 1996, Ashcroft said that he agreed that homosexuals should not be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America and the United States military. He said he was worried about the young people in society and who their role models were, “I think there are times when young men are unsure about themselves when they are in transition, when they have identified perhaps more with their mothers than with their fathers, and they move from boyhood to manhood. Those are critical times when role models are very important.” [Congressional Record, 9/6/96, S10000]

Ashcroft Opposed First Openly-Gay Nominee To Be Ambassador To Luxembourg. In 1998, Ashcroft said that he voted against President Clinton’s nominee to be Ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and that he would vote against his confirmation on the Senate floor. “People who are nominated to represent this country have to be evaluated for whether they represent the country well and fairly. His conduct and the way in which he would represent the United States is probably not up to the standard that I would expect. He has been a leader in promoting a lifestyle … And the kind of leadership he’s exhibited there is likely to be offensive to … individuals in the setting to which he will be assigned,” said Ashcroft. [Boston Globe, 6/24/98]

Ashcroft Has Handed Doj’s Civil Rights Division Over To Conservative Political Appointees

Ashcroft Has Given Control of Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to Conservative Appointees. As Attorney General, Ashcroft has turned over control of sensitive issues in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, including voting rights, to conservative political appointees. According to the Washington Post, Ashcroft has taken this action “to consolidate his control over the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.” [Washington Post, 3/15/02]

Washington Post: “Career Lawyers Contend Their Division’s Enforcement Of Civil Rights Laws Is Being Compromised.” Ashcroft and his aides, in some cases, have limited the input of career lawyers in the department and have met with defendants without informing the career lawyers handling the case. According to the Washington Post, “[C]areer lawyers contend their division’s enforcement of civil rights laws is being compromised.” [Washington Post, 3/15/02]

Justice Department Hired Two Conservative Operatives as Lawyers for the Voting Rights Task Force. The Justice Department has hired two conservative operatives as career lawyers for the Voting Rights Task force: Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former board member of the Voting Integrity Project which headed the purging of Florida voter rolls of alleged felons during the 2000 election and Hugh Joseph Beard, former senior counsel for the anti-affirmative action Center for Equal Opportunity. [Washington Post, 3/15/02]

Justice Department Hindered Senate Committee Investigation of Pickering. During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation of District Judge Charles Pickering, Viet D. Dinh, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy, directed six former division lawyers and one current lawyer not to discuss “internal communications or deliberations” with Senate Judiciary staff members. On February 13, during a Judiciary Committee phone-interview with former division lawyer Bradford M. Berry, Dinh faxed a letter to Senator Leahy and directed Berry not to answer any questions concerning “deliberative discussions” of Pickering. [Washington Post, 3/15/02]

DOJ Political Staff, Not Career Lawyers, Headed Consideration of Mississippi Redistricting. Political staff at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division took control of Mississippi’s redistricting plan and rejected the recommendation of the division’s career lawyers to approve a plan created by the Democratically-controlled state legislature. Because of Mississippi’s history of racial tension, the state must win Justice Department approval of its redistricting plan after each census. The delays caused by Justice’s rejection of the Democratic plan allowed a panel of three Republican federal judges to draw new congressional lines that favored the GOP. As of late-November 2002, the case was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. [Associated Press, 5/9/02, 11/25/02; Washington Post, 3/15/02]

Carl H. Esbeck — Director Doj’s Office Of Faith Based Initiatives

Esbeck Heads the Justice Department’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. Carl Esbeck was Ashcroft’s choice to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. Bush created the faith-based office in the Justice Department and in four other departments with an executive order on 1/29/01. The offices were created to help religious organizations obtain federal funding for their social work programs. [White House Press release, 1/29/01; Bush Executive Order, 1/29/01]

Esbeck Wrote Law Review Article Criticizing Supreme Court’s Decision against Bob Jones University. Esbeck co-authored a 1985 article that said the Supreme Court overstepped when it ruled that the government could prohibit funds from going to religious organizations that discriminate. The Supreme Court decision against Bob Jones University ruled that the government was within its rights to revoke the school’s tax-exempt status because it does not permit inter-racial dating. Esbeck said that the decision “has some in the religious community worried,” and that it was “a troubling step for religious educators.” [editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/6/92; San Jose Mercury News, 6/2/02]

Ashcroft Considered Appointing Esbeck to Missouri Supreme Court, Support for Bob Jones Became an Issue. Esbeck was one of the final candidates Ashcroft considered for an appointment to an open seat on the Missouri Supreme Court. During the vetting process, Esbeck’s writings in support of Bob Jones University became an issue and Esbeck was not given the appointment. [San Jose Mercury News, 6/2/02]

Lott Wrote an Amicus Brief for Bob Jones University. During his time in the U.S. House, Lott wrote an amicus brief to the Supreme Court supporting the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, despite the school’s policy banning inter-racial dating. “Racial discrimination does not always violate public policy. Schools are allowed to practice racial discrimination in admissions in the interest of diversity,” Lott said in his brief. Lott also said that he was defending the concerns of constituents who were worried that their religious schools would lose their tax-exempt status if the Supreme Court ruled against Bob Jones. [Boston Globe, 12/12/02]

Originally published at John Kerry for President.

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