Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) could barely get through the opening lines of his speech during his confirmation hearing Tuesday before protests erupted. Two men dressed as Ku Klux Klan members greeted Sessions before the confirmation began, the Daily News reports. The two fake Klansmen were quickly escorted out as one of the men exclaimed, "You can't arrest me! I'm white!" Women’s- rights and civil rights members of the audience also protested during Sessions’ speech and were quickly escorted out.
Such is the start for the controversial senator, who is the first Trump pick to face the Senate Judiciary Committee's interrogation. Sessions addressed his less-than-stellar record on race and women's rights in his opening statement.
"I abhor the Klan and its hateful ideology," Sessions said, CNN reports. "I never declared the NAACP was un-American."
Sessions was referring to reported racist remarks that ultimately sank his nomination for U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Alabama in 1986. Sessions reportedly agreed that a white lawyer was a disgrace to his race for representing black clients. Thomas Figures, who is black and was a longtime assistant to Sessions, testified in 1986 that he was often referred to as "boy" and that he'd heard Sessions refer to the NAACP as an "un-American" organization that forces "civil rights down the throats of people, " ABC News reports.
Sessions also reportedly "joked" that the KKK was all right with him until he learned that they smoked marijuana.
"I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters," Sessions said Tuesday.
"I have witnessed it. We must continue to move forward and never back,” he continued. “I understand the demands for justice and fairness made by our LGBT community. I will ensure that the statutes protecting their civil rights and their safety are full enforced. I understand the lifelong scars born by women who are victims of assault and abuse.
"And if I am so fortunate to be confirmed as your attorney general, you can know that I understand the absolute necessity that all my actions must fall within the bounds of the Constitution and the laws of the United States," he added.
Sessions also said that although he believes that Roe v. Wade—the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the county—violated the Constitution, he would “respect it and follow it,"
Sessions’ hearing is expected to last until Wednesday.