Nevada Sen. Ensign says he supports Lott
LAS VEGAS — Senate GOP Leader Trent Lott’s remarks about segregation damaged the Republican Party, but his apology was “the right thing to do,” Sen. John Ensign said Friday.
“To take full responsibility and to ask for forgiveness was, I think, absolutely the right tone,” Ensign, R-Nev., said.
Lott, 61 who is in line to become Senate majority leader in January, triggered an uproar last week when he said that Mississippians were proud to have voted for Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1948 on the pro-segregationist Dixiecrat ticket.
“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 added in remarks at Thurmond’s 100th birthday.
On Friday, Lott issued an apology, asking “forbearance and forgiveness.”
Ensign said he participated in a conference call Friday with other Republican senators and they all expressed their support for Lott.
“There wasn’t a single dissension,” Ensign said. “I think we’re pretty unified behind him, but we also have major, major challenges as a party.”
Ensign said the party has no doubt been damaged by Lott’s comments.
“We have been handicapped by this,” he said. “Sen. Lott, as well as the rest of us, are going to have to work a lot harder now to attract minorities to our party, especially African-Americans.”