GOP Sen. Gordon Smith Defends Trent Lott's Segregationist Comments

Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-OR, offered a passionate defense of the pro-segregationist comments made by his colleague and friend, Sen. Trent Lott, more then three years ago.

"I was half way around the world when an event befell Trent Lott that shook me deeply," Smith said, referencing Lott's 2002 remarks in praise of Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond's 1948 run for the White House. "I was celebrating my re-election and on vacation. I watched over international news as his words were misconstrued, words which we had heard him utter many times in his big warm-heartedness trying to make one of our colleagues, Strom Thurmond, feel good at 100 years old. We knew what he meant. But the wolfpack of the press circled around him, sensed blood in the water, and the exigencies of politics caused a great injustice..."

Smith's comments were made in a session noting Lott's impending retirement from the Senate.

In 2002, Lott lost his Senate Republican Leader post after he was quoted praising the staunch segregationist Strom Thurmond during Thurmond's 100th birthday party. "I want to say this about my state: when Strom Thurmond ran for President, we voted for him," Lott boasted. "We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Lott apologized repeatedly for his remarks, calling them "insensitive," "repugnant" and "inexcusable" during an appearance on a black-oriented cable channel.

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