Amid mounting outrage over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as she read Coretta Scott King’s 1968 letter opposing the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions’ to the federal bench, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday said he “respectfully disagreed” with the assessment by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow that Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, was a threat to civil rights.
“Like the late Arlen Specter,” Spicer said, “I can only hope that if she was still with us today, that after getting to know him and to see his record and his commitment to voting and civil rights,” she would have agreed with Specter when he said he regretted his vote to kill Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship decades before.
“I would hope that if she was still with us today,” Spicer continued, “she would share that sentiment.”
The remarks were swiftly mocked on social media, with many slamming Spicer for appearing to recast King’s views on civil rights and Sessions’ controversial record on the issue.
I think we can safely say that Spicer is wrong. If anything, King’s letter now applies to the whole GOP. https://t.co/Q9tL0AgVpw
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) February 8, 2017
Warren was forced to stop reading from King’s letter, in which she accused Sessions of using his office to “chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens,” Tuesday night after McConnell invoked an arcane rule prohibiting senators from impugning one another. The incident sparked widespread protest among Democrats, who in turn used it as further evidence against President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general.
You don’t ban a senator from participating in debate. Sen. McConnell owes Sen. Warren an apology. This is a fight we’ll continue. pic.twitter.com/gCuvYiElMc
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 8, 2017
Spicer’s statement on King came shortly after he angrily defended the president’s anti-terror raid in Yemen in January in which civilians and a Navy SEAL were killed. He suggested anyone who questioned the success of the mission was doing a “disservice” to the Navy SEAL killed in the mission.
When asked if his comments included Sen. John McCain, who previously described the raid as a “failure,” Spicer replied that the message was for “anybody.”