Elizabeth Warren Silenced on Senate Floor for Reading Words of Coretta Scott King

Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the Senate floor Tuesday night in an unprecedented act of Republican censure. She had been reading a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing the civil rights record of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump's cabinet appointee for attorney general. 

"Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district; he now seeks to serve as a federal judge," Warren said, citing the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.

She was first interrupted by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), who informed Warren such a letter was a violation of rule 19 of the standing rules of the Senate. Daines insisted that Warren was impugning another senator, despite the letter having been admitted into the record beforehand. 

"I am not allowed to accurately describe public views of Sen. Sessions, public positions of Sen. Sessions, public statements of Sen. Sessions?" she asked Daines before proceeding. 

The letter was written 30 years ago and helped prevent Sessions from obtaining a federal judgeship. 

Approximately 20 minutes later, Warren was interrupted yet again, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) while discussing the impact of Trump's executive orders on the courts.


"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted," McConnell said on the Senate floor, thus prohibiting Warren from debating on the floor prior to Sessions' confirmation vote.

Warren's supporters fired back, and #LetLizSpeak trended into the early hours of the morning.

Warren responded on Twitter.

She was later interviewed by CNN's Don Lemon and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about the incident, which quickly became a national story.  

"If the truth hurts, then that's all the more reason to hear it," Warren told Lemon after he offered to read the letter. 

"I've been red-carded on Sen. Sessions. I'm out of the game of the Senate floor," she reiterated on MSNBC. 

Warren also livestreamed her own reading of King's letter outside the Senate floor via Facebook as prominent Democrats leapt to her defense

"It's a sad day in America when the words of Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow are not allowed on the floor of the United States Senate. Let Elizabeth Warren speak," Interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile said in a statement. 

"I never, ever saw a time when a member of the Senate asked to put into the record a letter—especially by a civil rights icon—and somebody objected," added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.