WASHINGTON – Former President Clinton says Republicans are hypocritical for berating Senate Republican leader Trent Lott about his insensitive comments on race.
"How can they jump on him when they're out there repressing, trying to run black voters away from the polls and running under the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina?" Clinton said Wednesday in New York. "I mean, look at their whole record. He just embarrassed them by saying in Washington what they do on the backroads every day."
Lott has been trying to atone for publicly wishing that former segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948. Lott said his home state of Mississippi voted for Thurmond "and if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either."
Lott has apologized, but many conservatives have called for him to give up his leadership post. President Bush's aides have said Lott doesn't have to resign, but the White House is not making the case for keeping him in place either.
"I think that the way the Republicans have treated Senator Lott is pretty hypocritical, since right now their policy is, in my view, inimical to everything this country stands for," Clinton said while attending an event for the European Travel Commission.
"They've tried to suppress black voting, they've ran on the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina. And from top to bottom, the Republicans supported it. So I don't see what they're jumping on Trent Lott about."
Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot called Clinton's comments "misleading" and "divisive rhetoric."
"This is another tired example of Bill Clinton misrepresenting the facts and misleading the American people to gain political advantage," Racicot said.