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Mississippi's Homophobic Trent Lott
is Under Fire Nationwide

Republican U.S. Senate Leader Criticized for Racist Comments

Bigot Once Linked Same-Sex Love with Addictions & Alcohol

By Jack Nichols

Sen. Trent Lott said the country would have been better off if Strom Thurmond had won the 1948 presidential election. Civil rights leaders have blasted the incoming Senate majority leader, and former Vice President Al Gore called Lott's comments racist Washington, D.C.-Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, the incoming Republican Majority Leader in the United States Senate, inadvertently delivered racist commentary at a birthday party last week for South Carolina's 100-Year Old GOP Senator Strom Thurmond. In the wake of his comments, the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization, called for Lott's resignation. Former Vice-president Al Gore pointedly characterized Lott's comments as racist.

In 1998, the then GOP Senate Majority Leader's vicious characterizations of gay men and lesbians were also made public. Today, those who recall what he then said are showing little surprise about his latest display. Lott, waiting 5 days as criticism has mounted, issued what many have called an inadequate "apology"-one which makes no mention of the racist dimension to his remarks.

At theThurmond birthday celebration, Senator Lott recalled Thurmond's single-issue run for the presidency in 1948. That issue was clearly described in Thurmond's platform:

"We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race…"

Lott, with Thurmond seated next to him at the podium, told listeners:

"I want to say this about my state (Mississippi): When Strom Thurmond ran for the president, we voted for him. 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."

In the 1990's, Lott was shown to have been associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group which replaced the dreaded White Citizens Council. He attempted to distance himself from the later organization when his association with it was highlighted, claiming he was ignorant of its racist purposes. He had previously addressed the Council, however, saying that its members "stand for the right principles and the right philosophy."

In a June, 1998 cable television interview with Armstrong Williams, Lott was asked by his host if he regarded same-sex love as a sin. He replied:

"Yeah, it is. You should still love that person. You should try not to mistreat them as outcasts. You should show them a way to deal with the problem, just like alcohol or sex. There are all kinds of problems, addictions, difficulties, experiences of things that are wrong, but you should try to work with that person to learn how to control that problem."

Lott's statements were contradicted by mental health experts. At its August 1997 convention, the American Psychological Association had overwhelmingly passed a resolution noting that there is no sound scientific evidence on the efficacy of "reparative therapy," which seeks to "cure" homosexuals. Nearly 30 years ago, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association had removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Then White House Press Secretary, Mike McCurray, replied vigorously to Lott on behalf of former President Bill Clinton. When asked what Clinton had thought of the Senate Majority leader's comments, the Press Secretary replied:

"He thinks that the American people understand how difficult it is to get business done in Washington sometimes when you're dealing with people who are so backward in their thinking. For over 25 years, it's been quite clear that sexual orientation is not an affliction. It is not a disease…And the fact that the Majority Leader has such views apparently, consistent with some who are fairly extreme in his party, is an indicator of how difficult it is to do rational work in Washington."
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