Warren Tries to Read Coretta Scott King’s Letter About Sessions on Senate Floor; McConnell Silences Her

Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. (Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proved himself to be a coward Tuesday night when he stopped Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) from reading a 1986 letter penned by Coretta Scott King about Jeff Sessions, now the U.S. attorney general nominee.

Warren was in the process of reading the scathing letter—which was written by the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. to the then-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, and blatant racist, Strom Thurmond in response to Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship—when McConnell invoked obscure Senate Rule XIX, which states the following:

No senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.


All of this occurred on the eve of the confirmation vote to determine whether Sessions would be the next attorney general.

Warren took to Twitter to voice her outrage at the development:

I spoke out about @SenatorSessions – until @SenateMajLdr McConnell decided to silence me. https://t.co/qbty7x0iLl

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 8, 2017

I will not be silent about a nominee for AG who has made derogatory & racist comments that have no place in our justice system.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 8, 2017

I will not be silent while the Republicans rubber stamp an AG who will never stand up to the @POTUS when he breaks the law.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 8, 2017

Tonight @SenateMajLdr silenced Mrs King’s voice on the Sen floor - & millions who are afraid & appalled by what’s happening in our country.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 8, 2017

Because of Warren’s attempt to share the words of Coretta Scott King, GOP senators voted strictly along partisan lines, 49-43, to admonish Warren, effectively barring her from speaking during any remaining debate on Sessions.


As previously reported by The Root, King called out Sessions for being the documented racist that he is, writing that his “indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights law, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgment to be a federal judge.” She added:

Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.


The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished 20 years ago with clubs and cattle prods.

I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court.


Based on his record, I believe that his confirmation would have a devastating effect, not only on the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband’s dream that he envisioned over 20 years ago.


As previously reported by The Root, Sessions, as the then-39-year-old U.S. attorney for Alabama’s Southern District, led a judicial lynching party against the “Marion Three,” claiming that Albert Turner, Spencer Hogue and Evelyn Turner were guilty of felony voter fraud for trying to help elderly black people vote. The Marion Three were eventually exonerated.

Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor and former assistant U.S. attorney general, served as legal counsel for Hogue and recently wrote a letter (pdf) outlining why Sessions was unfit to be attorney general of the United States.


In 1995, Sessions supported the return to Alabama of chain gangs, men shackled together and working hard labor on the side of a road, to purposely humiliate and dehumanize them. “I think it’s perfectly proper,” Sessions said at the time.

But it is not any of these things that McConnell and the rest of the GOP find offensive. Instead, McConnell determined that the words of Coretta Scott King were too damaging, too inflammatory, too hurtful to Sessions to be read on the Senate floor.


According to McConnell, the letter impugns Sessions’ character, but that is a lie.

The unmitigated gall of this move speaks volumes not only about McConnell’s character but also about the state of a Republican Party so invested in the maintenance of white supremacy through its own stranglehold on power that it would dare suggest that Coretta Scott King wrote anything other than the truth.


Click here to read Coretta Scott King’s full letter, as reported by the Washington Post.

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Kirsten West Savali

Mother. Wife. Writer. Journalist. Bubber's Daughter.