Reporting on Lott's selection as Republican minority whip, 9News, Fox 31 ignored his 2002 resignation and history of racially insensitive actions

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

KUSA 9News and KDVR Fox 31 broadcasts reported on the selection of Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott as U.S. Senate minority whip without noting that he was forced to resign his Senate leadership position in 2002 after making racially insensitive remarks.

During November 15 broadcasts, KUSA's 9News at 10 p.m. and KDVR's Fox 31 News at Nine O'Clock reported on the selection of Mississippi U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R) to serve as Senate minority whip without noting that he was forced to resign his Senate leadership position in 2002 after making racially insensitive remarks. Those broadcasts also did not report that Lott has a history of remarks and actions that have been criticized as racially insensitive or, in some cases, supportive of racist and segregationist groups or policies.

In reporting on Senate Republicans' decision to elect Lott to the second-highest minority position in the Senate, Fox 31 co-anchor Libby Weaver stated, "Trent Lott was elected minority whip, beating out challenger Lamar Alexander by just one vote." Similarly, 9News co-anchor Adele Arakawa reported only that "Mississippi Senator Trent Lott took the number-two spot as minority whip."

Neither broadcast pointed out that in 2002, Lott was "pressured into stepping down as Senate majority leader for praising onetime segregationist hero Strom Thurmond," according to a November 14 Cox News Service article in The Denver Post. According to the article:

The Republicans, relegated to minority status in the new Congress that convenes in January, will choose Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as their counter to the incoming majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. But the minority whip job is a contest between Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and the former Republican leader of the Senate, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi.

Lott's comeback bid, four years after he was pressured into stepping down as Senate majority leader for praising onetime segregationist hero Strom Thurmond, could be aided by the fact that the Republican leadership election is by secret ballot.

As CNN reported on December 10, 2002, Lott said at a birthday celebration for Thurmond, "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for 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." CNN further noted:

Thurmond ran as the presidential nominee of the breakaway Dixiecrat Party in the 1948 presidential race against Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Thomas Dewey. He carried Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and his home state of South Carolina, of which he was governor at the time.

During the campaign, he said, "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches."

Thurmond's party ran under a platform that declared in part, "We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race."

Though he later apologized for his remarks, Lott was forced to resign his Senate leadership post in December 2002 amid widespread criticism.

In contrast to 9News' 10 p.m. report, its November 15 9News at 5 p.m. broadcast included the past controversy surrounding Lott. As Arakawa reported, "Lott resigned from the Senate leadership position in 2002 after he was accused of making racially insensitive remarks during a retirement party for South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond."

As Media Matters for America has chronicled, Lott's 2002 remarks were among his numerous other public statements and actions that have been criticized as racially insensitive or, in some cases, supportive of racist and segregationist groups or policies. Media Matters pointed to a December 13, 2002, Scripps Howard News Service article documenting the reasons both Democrats and Republicans have blasted Lott for his apparent endorsement of segregationist policies.

From the November 15 broadcast of KDVR Fox 31's News at Nine O'Clock:

WEAVER: And today, Senate Republicans announced their new leadership team. Trent Lott was elected minority whip, beating out challenger Lamar Alexander by just one vote. Mitch McConnell was selected as the new Senate minority leader.

From the November 15 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 10 p.m.:

ARAKAWA: Republicans have elected their new Senate leadership. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was unanimously chosen to be the minority leader when the new Senate convenes in January. Mississippi Senator Trent Lott took the number-two spot as minority whip. The Democrats chose their leadership yesterday.

From the November 15 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m.:

ARAKAWA: Republicans have chosen their leaders for the next session of Congress. As expected, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell will be the Senate minority leader. Mississippi Senator Trent Lott will be the party's second-ranking senator, holding the title of Senate minority whip.

[...]

Lott resigned from the Senate leadership position in 2002 after he was accused of making racially insensitive remarks during a retirement party for South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond.

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