In a less than shocking move by new President-elect Donald Trump, controversial Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions will serve as the Attorney General in the new administration starting January. Sessions, one of Trump's most ardent supporters during the campaign, has a sordid history of some pretty shocking and prejudicial remarks that don't seem to serve his new position very well.
Of course, his various misogynistic and racist comments are troubling in and of themselves, but particularly so when it comes to the context of his new job. As head of the Justice Department, Sessions is theoretically in charge of seeing that the United States is a just place for all its citizens. However, given some of his vocal and extremely discriminatory beliefs, that doesn't seem likely.
To be 100 percent fair, he's said some not terrible things, too. During an interview in 2009, he said that his pro-life stance on abortion wouldn't necessarily keep him from confirming a potential Supreme Court nominee if they disagreed with him, and that a nominee's sexual orientation wouldn't be a factor in his decision to confirm either. That's progressive and comforting, but it doesn't undo all the other bad things he has said.
This election cycle has been a lesson in recognizing that saying terrible things doesn't necessarily make you completely terrible, but that it's still not OK and shouldn't be looked over or rewarded. In light of that, here are nine terrible things that Sessions has said over the years that will make you want to protest against him:
Unsurprisingly, Sessions seems to be a climate change denier. "Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases," Sessions said during a 2015 Senate hearing for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Mansplaining at its finest. At least he'll fit right in with Myron Ebell.
The Voting Rights Act
The VRA, which empowered minorities to get groundbreaking equal access to their voting rights, was apparently a bad thing to Sessions. He called the historic act a “piece of intrusive legislation,” a quote that he stood by during his failed 1986 federal judicial confirmation hearing.
Another racist moment that popped up during Sessions' confirmation hearing was his lax stance on the Ku Klux Klan. One of his staffers, Thomas Figures, testified that Sessions derogatorily called him "boy" and joked about the KKK in front of him. Sessions' former co-workers also testified that he joked that he thought the hate group was “OK," until he learned that they "smoked marijuana.”
Figures also testified that Sessions called the NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired,” so there's that.
Sessions hasn't been too vocal on this front, but his voting record in the Senate speaks for itself. He voted against allocating $100 million for sexual education and contraception for high schoolers, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, and he voted in favor of ending special funding for businesses owned by women.
Sessions' voting record also doesn't reflect well on his stance on the LGBTQ community. Although he's said sexual orientation isn't a factor in confirming a judge, that's a far cry from being an ally, and his voting record definitely shows that he isn't one. He voted no on expanding the definition of a hate crime to include LGBT victims, voted against repealing "don't ask, don't tell," and voted yes for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Sessions seemed to have no idea that the vetting process for Syrian refugees is actually incredibly rigorous, and instead was laser-focused on the idea that there were somehow untold numbers of Syrians who had been convicted of terrorist activity.
“People don’t have to endorse all of his rhetoric, but he’s correct on the issues, substantively, and he’s where the American people want to be, and we as a party should celebrate this and join this movement,” Sessions said in an interview in May, after he became the first senator to endorse Trump. Apparently Trump's views on mass deportation, banning Muslims, and potentially overturning Roe v. Wade appeal to Sessions.
When Trump's leaked tape in which he identifies himself as a sexual assailant hit the news, Sessions was quick to defend him, going so far as to claim that Trump's words didn't actually characterize sexual assault. "I don't characterize that as sexual assault. I think that's a stretch," Sessions said in an interview just after the second presidential debate. He later released a vague statement retracting the comment, blaming the "chaotic post-debate environment" for his misspeaking.
Tragically, Sessions isn't even the most controversial person to be appointed to Trump's administration. Sessions is terrifying on his own, but when you add him into the team of people that Trump is building, it's like the Aggressively Privileged Avengers. May the next four years go by very, very quickly.