Anyone can make a mistake. I certainly understand how you all were mistaken when you misinterpreted my remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday celebration. I'm big hearted enough to forgive you, and really, if I'm willing to forgive you, you ought to be able to find it in your hearts to forgive my little slip of the tounge. It wasn't as though it was a prepared speech, I was speaking off the cuff.
I misspoke, for crying out loud, get over it. It's not like I'm confused about whether or not I had sex with an intern or where you are supposed to put a cigar.
A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embraced the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement. I also apologize to those who misunderstood me and were offended when I said almost exactly the same thing 22 years ago on a similar occaision. Saying the same thing over and over in public when you are a person of great political power should not be construed to be the truth or an accurate reflection of the beliefs held by that individual mis-speaking. Of course, that is not to say that this public apology or my explanation of the mis-spoken misunderstand taken out of context remarks shouldn't be taken as genuine and heartfelt. But neither should this apology and explanation be construed as an admission of any incorrect thought or deed on my part. I am making this apology solely out of concern for the misunderstanding some people who are in a mind set to misconstrue my postion out of "Blame America First" mentality and a tendency to leap to hurt feelings and the promotion of divisiveness in the political arena. If it weren't for people like that, people who actively seek opportunities to undermine the great advances made by my political party in creating a harmonious relationship between the races in this country no apology would be necessary, and that, ultimately is what I was really talking about.
Some of you are now even saying that I worked for Thrumond's campaign. I never worked for the Thurmond Presidential Campaign, I was six years old in 1948.
Al Gore, the Former Vice President said on Monday that I should be censured for my ``racist statement.''
I am no racist. This was a goddam birthday party for a man who was serving this country in public office when Al Gore was still wearing his Earth Destroying Non-biodegradable Diapers. My remarks were part of a lighthearted celebration involving a lot of innocent fun, like that stripper we had dressed up as Marilyn Monroe to sing Happy Birthday Mister Senator. For god's sake, you'd think we were having a fucking Klan Rally. Did you see a burning cross up there? No. You saw an AMERICAN FLAG! The flag you liberals want to burn. What kind of a world is it where the same people who want cross burnings banned want to drag the American Flag through the mud, douse it in Iraqi oil and put a match to it?
The problem with you people is you don't think before you leap for the throat of good people. My comments were not an endorsement of his positions of over 50 years ago, but of the man and his life. When Thurmond, Governor of South Carolina in 1948, ran for president he was brave enough to stand up for what he believed in. He believed in states' rights and opposed forced integration. He was part of the somewhat loyal opposition of his own party, and was prepared to stand up against the leader of his own party, the President of the united states, President Truman. Sure, when Strom was running and he was shouting "SEGREGATION NOW, SEGREGATION TOMARRAH, SEGREGATION FOREBBAH!" one way to look at his platform was that it had but one plank, that he was solely dedicated to opposing the civil rights efforts of his own party. The expansive civil rights agenda of Harry S. Truman.
Yes, he entered the Senate in 1954 and became one of the South's most vocal opponents of integration, and fought that year's Supreme Court school desegregation decision and filibustered against civil rights legislation. But, he changed positions later in the year, hiring black staffers and helping promote blacks to federal judgeships.
Now, what exactly did I say? I said: ``I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it--And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either.''
What I meant was that if he had won in 1948, by the end of his second term he'd be the Turnaround Thurmond who hired black staffers and helped us get our first black federal judges--a champion of equality, not the Strom Thurmond of 1948.
My god, a racist? I captured 25 percent of the black vote in Mississippi, are you going to stand there and tell me that 25% of the blacks in my state are so stupid they voted for a racist?
I'm not about to resign for an accusation that I am something I'm not. If I resign, it would be like admitting I'm wrong. I mean, admitting that what I said was wrong. I mean, it will mean that I actually meant what I said. Why are you holding me to a standard that you don't hold the President of the United States to? I don't mean the one we have now, I mean the one we had the last two times. I am from the South. I have lived through troubled times in the South, and along with the South, I have learned from the mistakes of our past. I don't own any slaves. I don't advocate the owning of slaves. I use the same wash rooms as my colored constituents.
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"What am I saying?" debuted December 13, 2002, performed by Todd Ristau.
For more information on the story, visit the msnbc website to view the story Lott shows race still haunts America.