Congressional Black Caucus Chair Cedric Richmond blasts Sessions hearing 4 putting black critics at back of the bus. pic.twitter.com/SIv6Ibpeia
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 11, 2017
New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker set a new precedent by breaking tradition and testifying against one of his own colleagues during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. Georgia Rep. John Lewis, meanwhile, reminded the Senate committee about the country’s sordid past and why the next attorney general must “stand up” for all Americans. As for Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, however, the incumbent from the southern state’s second district took the opportunity to criticize the committee for its decision to schedule the Congressional Black Caucus last.
Richmond’s pointed criticism was awarded with several notable nods and audible cheers during the televised testimony, as well as a trending topic on Twitter. Yet despite the viral fanfare, the Louisiana lawmaker’s comments weren’t to be dismissed out of hand, as the Senate confirmation hearing considering Sessions’ potential as the next attorney general did put Booker, Lewis, Richmond and their colleagues last:
“I want to express my concerns about being made to testify at the very end of the witness panels. To have a senator, a House member and a living civil rights legend testify at the end of all of this is the equivalent of being made to go to the back of the bus. It is a petty strategy and the record should reflect my consternation at the unprecedented process that brought us here. My record on equality speaks for itself, and I don’t mind being last, but to have a living legend like John Lewis handled in such a fashion is beyond the pale. The message sent by this process is duly noted by me, and the 49 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the 78 million Americans we represent.”
In addition to his symbolic procedural complaint, Richmond brought up Sessions’ prosecution record in Alabama — especially the case revolving around the “Marion Three.” According to CNN, then-U.S. Attorney Sessions prosecuted what many believe to be a racially-motivated voter fraud case against Evelyn Turner, her husband Albert, and Spencer Hogue.
“History is replete with efforts by those in power,” Richmond noted, “to legitimize their acts of suppression and intimidation of black voters by recruiting other blacks to assist in bringing trumped up charges against law-abiding citizens who are engaged in perfectly legitimate voter education and empowerment activities.”
Aside from the splash made in Wednesday’s confirmation hearing, however, the Louisiana representative’s name may ring a bell because of his role in a recent story about a controversial painting displayed in the Capitol. Per Politico, Richmond said, “We may just have to kick somebody’s ass and stop them” after Republicans repeatedly removed the artwork, which depicts police officers as pigs. The painting was made by high school student from Ferguson, Missouri.