As Democrats held the Senate floor on Tuesday night in opposition of Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren attempted to read from a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., regarding Sessions' fitness as a federal judge. The subsequent video of Elizabeth Warren being silenced by Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell ended up amplifying her voice and creating a bigger interest in King's words than Warren could have ever hoped for.
McConnell, the Senate's Majority Leader, invoked the little-known Rule 19, a prohibition against a senator impugning another senator, in order to shut down Warren. Sessions is currently serving as a senator in Alabama. The precise language that McConnell took offense to was a direct quote from King's letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which she charged that Sessions had "used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens." Sessions, a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama at the time, had been nominated for a federal judgeship by President Ronald Reagan. King's statement was in reference to Sessions' failed voter fraud case against the "Marion Three," voting rights activists who had assisted elderly and illiterate black voters with their registrations. Sessions' office has not responded to Romper's request for comment regarding allegations of racism against him.
King's full letter on Sessions, recently obtained by the Washington Post, was never entered into the record by the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, a segregationist with a secret black daughter. But now, despite McConnell's best efforts, the letter has a larger audience than King ever could have dreamed. After being formally shushed, Warren read the letter on Facebook Live just outside of the Senate floor. Hours later, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley managed to read portions of King's letter to the Senate unfettered, leaving many to question whether Warren's gender had anything to do with her treatment by McConnell.
Sessions was eventually turned down in 1986, after testimony at his confirmation hearing claimed that he had characterized the NAACP and the ACLU "un-American" and "Communist-inspired," repeatedly called a black assistant U.S. attorney "boy," and told him to "be careful what you say to white folks," allegations Sessions has denied. Testimony also revealed that Sessions once joked that he thought the KKK was "OK until I found out they smoked pot" while prosecuting two of its members for slitting the throat of a black man and hanging his body from a tree. Sessions admitted that he did make that statement. A vote on Sessions' current nomination is expected on Wednesday. Here's a full list of senators' phone numbers.