Lott Quits Senate Post. (News)
Amid both support and criticism from unlikely places, embattled Senator Trent Lott (R., Miss.) resigned is party leadership post in the Senate. A Southern Baptist, Lott offered at least five apologies for public statements that seemed to support America's racially segregated past. None seemed to satisfy his critics on the right or the left, and on December 20 he announced his intention to resign.
"In the interest of pursuing the best possible agenda for the future of our country, I will not seek to remain as majority leader of the United States Senate," Lott said in a statement. However, he vowed to finish his term in the Senate. This allayed GOP fears that Lott would also resign his seat--setting off events that could have resulted in a return of the chamber to Democratic control.
Lott received heavy criticism following his controversial comments December 5 when he said the country would have been better off if it had elected segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond as president in 1948. Ironically, much of the criticism came from Lott's conservative allies, while he gained surprising support from some liberal leaders.
Conservative Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said, in a December 14 radio broadcast, that Lott has "an enormous and glaring blind spot in his personal understanding of just how wrong and evil segregation was and how horrific the privations were that were visited on African-Americans during that period." Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has been a close political ally of Lott.
Land also urged Lott's resignation, saying, "To be able under any circumstances to say such a thing reveals a grossly inadequate understanding of the true injustice of that time and incomprehension of the civil rights revolution as the most important social movement of the 20th century. Such a lack of comprehension disqualifies one from national leadership, in my opinion, in the 21st century. …