Sen. Tom Harkin: Civil rights nominee would have been confirmed if he were white
President Barack Obama’s nomination of civil rights lawyer Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was blocked by the Senate Wednesday — an act one of the prominent Democrat called “shameful.”
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) addressed members of the Senate last night and criticized members who voted against Adegbile’s nomination, suggesting that the lawyer would have had more success if he were white.
Adegbile, who is biracial, currently heads the NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund. However, he has received some scrutiny for handling the appeal of infamous death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black radical who was convicted of murder in 1981 for killing a Philadelphia officer.
This fact caused a rift in the Democratic caucus, which led eight of its members to join the Republicans in voting against Adegbile’s confirmation.
In response, Harkin took to the Senate floor and shared a few choice words, saying the vote against Adegbile reeked of racial prejudice.
“Here’s the message we sent today,” Harkin said. “You young people listen up. If you are a young white person and you go to work for a law firm … and that law firm assigns you to a pro bono case to defend someone who killed eight people in cold blood … my advice from this, what happened today, is you should do that … Because if you do that, who knows? You might wind up to be the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court,” he said, referring to Chief Justice John Roberts, who once did pro-bono work for a man who was recently executed for mass murder.
Harkin went on to say: “However, if you are a young black person and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund … and you’re asked to sign an appeal for someone convicted of murder, what the message said today is, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t do it.’ Because you know what? If you do that, in keeping with your legal obligations and your profession, you will be denied by the U.S. Senate from being an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice.”
Watch his full speech here:
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