Deviating from his prepared remarks, Senator Sessions addressed allegations regarding his civil rights record head-on, refuting the allegations made against him and emphasizing the hard work he has done on civil rights issues:
SEN. SESSIONS: Let me address another issue, straight on. I was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of African-Americans by presenting the Perry County case, the voter fraud case, and of condemning civil rights advocates and organizations and even harboring, amazingly, sympathies for the KKK. These are damnably false charges. The voter fraud case my office prosecuted was in response to pleas from African-American, incumbent elected officials who claimed that the absentee ballot process involved a situation in which ballots cast for them were stolen, altered, and cast for their opponents. The prosecution sought to protect the integrity of the ballot, not to block voting. It was a voting rights case. As to the KKK, I invited civil rights attorneys from Washington, D.C. to help us solve a very difficult investigation into the unconscionable, horrendous death of a young African-American, coming home from the 7-Eleven store at night, simply because he was black. His — Michael Donald.
And actively backed the attorneys throughout the case and they broke that case. That effort led to a guilty plea and a life sentence in court for one defendant, and his testimony against this other defendant. There was no federal death penalty at the time. I felt the death penalty was appropriate in this case and I pushed to have it tried in state court, which was done. That defendant was indeed convicted and sentenced to death and ten years later, ironically, as Alabama’s attorney general, my staff participated in the defense of that verdict and sentence and a few months after I became the United States Senator that murdering Klansman was indeed executed.
I abhor the Klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology. I assisted Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, his lawsuit led to the successful collapse of the Klan at least in Alabama, the seizure of their building, at least for that period of time. As Civil Rights Division attorneys have testified before the committee, I supported fully their historic cases that the Justice Department filed to advance civil rights and that I supported. Including cases to desegregate schools, abolish at large elections for cities, county commissions and school boards. These at large elections were mechanisms used to block African-American candidates from being able to be elected to boards and commissions. It was a deliberate and part of a systemic plan to reduce the ability of African-Americans to have influence in the election and governing process. I never declared the NAACP was un-American or that a civil rights attorney was a disgrace to his race. There is nothing I am more proud of than my 14 years of service in the Department of Justice. I love and venerate that great institution. I hold dear its highest ideals.