WASHINGTON – Excerpts from Senate Republican leader Trent Lott's interview on Monday with Black Entertainment Television:
On whether he is in a fight for his political future:
"The important thing is to recognize the hurt that I caused and ask for forgiveness and find a way to turn this into a positive thing, and try to make amends for what I've said and for what others have said and done over the years. I'm looking for this to be not only an opportunity for redemption, but to do something about it. And I regret it. But I'm now trying to find a way to deal with the understandable hurt that I have caused. You can, you know, say it was innocent, but it was insensitive at the very least and repugnant, frankly."
On whether he can survive the controversy:
"I do think so, but it's going, you know, depend on the realization that I am going to have to make changes and make amends and do something about it. I've been reaching out, talking to a lot of different people, African-Americans — seeking their advice — pastors, media, business leaders, and looking for their suggestions of what we can do."
On what he meant by praising Strom Thurmond's 1948 run for president:
"When I got to know Strom Thurmond — really know him, was in the — I guess, in the '80s — late '70s or '80s, I saw a senator that was committed in the fight against communism, that had fought Nazism, a senator that was for fiscal responsibility, you know, and one that also thought that law and order was very important, protecting people of all races against crime. That's what his focus was. ..."
"I don't want to get this into a position of making excuses. I accept the fact that I made a terrible mistake, used horrible words, caused hurt. I'm sorry about that. I've apologized for it. I've asked for forgiveness. And I'm going to continue to do that."
On his experiences growing up in southern Mississippi:
"There was a society then that was wrong and wicked. I didn't create it and I didn't even really understand it for many, many years. There was — look, I feel very strongly about my faith, and I have grown over the years. But in order to be a racist, you have to feel superior. I don't feel superior to you at all. I don't believe any man or any woman is superior to any other."
On his views on affirmative action:
"I am for affirmative action. And I practice it. I have had African-Americans on my staff, and other minorities, but particularly African-Americans, since the mid-1970s ... you can get into arguments about timetables and quotas. Here's what I think, though. I think you've got to have an aggressive effort in America to make everybody have a chance."
On whether he thinks President Bush would ask him to step down as Senate Republican leader:
"I think it would be a mistake. I don't believe he would do that. And I think that it's more important for me to stay in the job I've been elected to and show that I can make a difference. I'm asking people to forgive my mistake and give me a chance. See if I can make a difference, if I can really help people feel better about our society, our government and about me."
On whether he will retain his leadership position after Republican senators meet to decide his fate on Jan. 6:
"Yes, I do because of what I'm going to say, what I'm going to do. And I think this actually can help us move an agenda that will be good for American, all Americans, equal opportunity for everybody, an improved society. And I'm going to work to make that happen."