The Racist Senate of the United States

Here is a listing of racist incidents involving United States Senators presently in office:

BENNETT, ROBERT F. (R — UT)

On March 13, 1998, during investigations pertaining to the 1996 Presidential Campaign, Sen. Bennett remarked, “I stepped in and said, `No. I have owned a business in Asia. I have done business in Asia. Charlie Trie’s actions are the typical actions of an Asian businessman.'” (CSPAN — video and transcript)

BOXER, BARBARA (D — CA)

On July 16, 2009, at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Sen. Boxer was speaking to Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (an organization that Boxer confused with the NAACP), when the following exchange occured:

Boxer: Then we’re going to put the NAACP resolution that passed saying this: The NAACP approved a historic resolution addressing climate change legislation for the first time in the organization’s history.

Alford: What does that mean?

Boxer: Sir, we’re gonna put that in the record, and you can read it cuz I don’t have the time, but I’ll read the rest-

Alford: What does that mean though? I mean, the NAACP has a resolution. What does that mean?

Boxer: Sir, they could say the same thing about what do you mean? I’m just telling you they passed it-

Alford: I’ve got documentation!

Boxer: Sir, they passed it. Now, also, if that isn’t interesting to you, we’ll quote John Grant who is the CEO of A Hundred Black Men of Atlanta. Quote: Clean energy is the key that will unlock millions of jobs, and the NAACP’s support is vital to ensuring that those jobs help to rebuild urban areas. So clearly there is a diversity of opinion.

Alford: Madame Chair-

Boxer: If I can-

Alford: -that is condescending to me.

Boxer: Well-

Alford: I’m the National Black Chamber of Commerce-

Boxer: If this- if this-

Alford: -and you’re trying to put up some other black group up to pit against me.

Boxer: If this gentleman- if this gentleman were here, he would be proud that he was being quoted. Just as-

Alford: He should have been invited.

Boxer: Just as- He would be proud-

Alford: It is condescending to me.

Boxer: Just as so- Just so you know, he would be proud that you were here. He is proud I am sure-

Alford: Proud, proud (bitterly and contemptuously).

Boxer: -that I am quoting him.

Alford: All that’s condescending-

Boxer: Well, Sir.

Alford: -and I don’t like it. It’s racial.

Boxer: What’s racial?

Alford: I don’t like it.

Boxer: Excuse me, Sir.

Alford: I take offense to it.

Boxer: Ok.

Alford: As an African-American and a veteran of this country, I take offense to that.

Boxer: Offense at the fact that I would quote-

Alford: You’re quoting some other black man. Why don’t you quote some other-

Boxer: No.

Alford: Asian? Or some other-

Boxer: Well, lemme-

Alford: I mean- what- You are being racial here.

(Transcript and YouTube clip)

BROWNBACK, SAM (R — KS)

On July 10, 1997, when questioning a witness about a reward from Asian-Americans that Democratic fundraiser John Huang was to receive, Sen. Brownback remarked, “No raise money, no get bonus.” (USA Today, Seattle Times)

BUNNING, JIM (R — KY)

At a March 20, 2004 Republican event, Jim Bunning stated that his opponent, Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons. (USA Today, Associated Press)

BYRD, ROBERT (D — WV)

“Senator Byrd quit the Klan in the 1940s and has renounced it since. On the other hand, his history is worth revisiting, since it’s something Democrats have been willing to tolerate, despite Lott-like remarks that would have ended a Republican’s career. Only last year Mr. Byrd told Fox News that ‘there are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time, if you want to use that word. But we all–we all–we just need to work together to make our country a better country and I–I’d just as soon quit talking about it so much.'” (Wall Street Journal)

COBURN, TOM (R — OK)


During the July hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Sen. Coburn impersonated Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy, saying, “You have lots of ‘splaining to do!” (YouTube clip and The New York Times)

CORKER, BOB (R — TN)

During his 2006 campaign, Sen. Corker used fears of interracial relationships and stereotypes against his opponent, Harold Ford, who was African-American. “Harold Ford looks nice,” says one African-American woman, “isn’t that enough?” “I met Harold at the Playboy party,” says a scantily clad white woman. (Truthdig with video clip)

GRAHAM, LINDSEY (R — SC)

During the health care debates, Sen. Graham argued the following: “I have 12 percent unemployment in South Carolina. My state’s on its knees. I have 31 percent African-American population in South Carolina.” Later in the speech, Sen. Graham said, “My state, with 30 percent African-American citizens, a lot of low income people in South Carolina is going to cost my state a billion dollars, that’s the same old stuff that I object to. That’s not change we can believe in. That’s sleazy.” Rachel Maddow concluded, “The argument here appears to be that Sen. Graham believes it is sleazy to expect a state with lots of black people in it, to have health reform.” (Rachel Maddow video and Raw Story)

MCCAIN, JOHN (R — AZ)

During the 2000 campaign, Sen. McCain told reporters, “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 2, 2000)

In 1983, as a young congressman, Sen. McCain voted against the recognition of Martin Luther King Day. (ABC News)

In an August 1, 2008 post, Capitol Hill Blue’s Doug Thompson noted additional anecdotal examples of racism. (Capitol Hill Blue)

REID, HARRY (D — NV)

In John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s new book, Game Change Harry Reid stated that Barack Obama could become the first African-American President because he was “light-skinned” and because he did not speak with a “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” (New York Times)

SESSIONS, JEFF (R — AL)

In 1986, Sen. Sessions was rejected from an Alabama judiciary seat by the Senate Judiciary Committee seat. In previous remarks, Sessions had claimed that the NAACP was “un-American,” calling an African-American aide “boy,” and describing a white civil rights attorney as “a disgrace to his race.” Sessions also claimed that Klansmen were “O.K.” until he learned that a few of them smoked pot. (Numerous articles through Meet Jeff Sessions. See also The New Republic.)

SPECTER, ARLAN (D — PA)

Before he switched parties from Republican to Democrat, Sen. Arlen Specter spoke at a November 1, 2008 pro-McCain rally, where he noted “a couple of hidden factors” in the 2008 presidential election: “The first is that people answer pollsters one way, but in the secrecy of the ballot booth, vote the other way.” (Salon)

VITTER, DAVID (R — LA)


In October 2009, an interracial couple was denied marriage by justice of the peace Keith Bardwell. Sen. Mary Landrieu and Gov. Bobby Jindall both called for Bardwell’s firing. But Sen. Vitter was the only senior official who refused to comment, running away when asked by a guy with a video camera. He also refused to comment when asked three times by MSNBC. (YouTube video, Talking Points Memo)

“My Friends”

Back in September, Paul Collins was ahead of the curve. Writing in Slate, Collins investigated McCain’s odd catchphrase, deployed quite liberally on Tuesday night during the second presidential debate. Collins tracked these mad dollops to William Jennings Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech from 1896. Bryan, as you may recall, died in his sleep five days after the Scopes Monkey Trial decision.

If McCain appears to be on the verge of losing this race, the least he can do is to consider the sponsorship opportunities. Let’s say that McCain were to replace “friends” with “space” and charge MySpace $50 for every unfurling of the phrase. Not only would McCain stand to make well over a grand from Tuesday’s appearance, but he would, at long last, demonstrate some familiarity with the Internet at the last minute. (Okay, so he’d be a little behind the curve here, because he’s not exactly aware of Facebook. But we expect some unfamiliarity with the social network of choice among our old geezers.)

Alternatively, I’d like to see John McCain sing “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” in answer to a question if he can’t come up with a cogent answer.

This Blog Has Been Suspended

Ladies and gentlemen, I have decided to suspend this blog. I feel that my services would be more effectively employed in Washington, DC, where my invaluable input on the current economic crisis and various cultural matters will fall on deaf political ears. Yes, nobody asked me to go to Washington. But, dammit, I’m a maverick. Yes, I do realize that I have many more films to screen at the New York Film Festival. Yes, I do realize that there are deadlines. Yes, I do realize that I have interviews to conduct. But you see, I’m one of those guys who can’t chew bubble gum and walk at the same time. This is why I don’t think I’d be a very good United States President. This is why I feel the time is right to stop blogging and debating and just go to Washington. Even if my activities involve drinking great quantities of bourbon, I feel that this debauchery would be better for the country than living up to any responsibility.

Of course, if I’m feeling better tomorrow, I could very well resume this blog. Particularly if David Letterman tries to mock me or the newspapers and the blogs call my very meaningful gesture towards my country a “Hail Mary” or the act of a coward. Must I inform you of my life experience? I stood in line at the DMV for five years, people. And to anyone who might question my blogging and writing faculties, let me say it again. I stood in line at the DMV for five years. And I ran out of books and food. But I persevered. I still cannot raise my arms above my head because the cruel soldiers at the DMV kept hitting me in the shoulders. But I was a good American and, at the end of the day, I came back to my home with a driver’s license. I will refer you back to this life-changing act of courage if you question my integrity.

I’ve served four terms as a blogger and I know the Arizona heat. I understand that my co-blogger, who has yet to write a post here, has a great view of Russia from her home. So I think I know what I’m doing here. The other bloggers are quite smart. But they will never know how smart I really am, because, goddammit, the blogging is suspended and the literary debates aren’t going to happen on Friday.

Rest assured that I am committed to thinking about thinking about the economy. I may not come up with any ideas, but I will most certainly be thinking in Washington. And should I pop out of my proverbial blogging hole and see my shadow, then perhaps there may be five minutes of literary debate with my opponents.

God bless blogging, and God bless America!