Texas Senator Ted Cruz challenged the news media during Tuesday’s confirmation hearing to tell the truth about his colleague Jeff Sessions’ record on championing civil rights and fighting bigotry — in particular Sessions’ role in sentencing a well-known Klansman to death and helping to financially bankrupt the Klan in the state of Alabama.
“I want to spend a little bit of time highlighting an aspect of your record, which is your involvement in the prosecution of Henry Hays, a member of the Ku Klux Klan,” Cruz told Sessions during the hearing. “Because I suspect it’s something very few people watching this hearing have ever heard of, and it is striking. And I think highly revealing, so I’d just like to walk through some of the facts,” Cruz said. He went on:
I have not seen any appointee to the cabinet– Democratic or Republican– who has a record like you do of prosecuting Klansman, putting them on death row, bankrupting them, and putting them out of business. I admire you’re doing so, and I’ll issue a challenge to our friends in the news media. I notice every time a protester [opposing Sessions] jumped up, all the photographers took pictures of the protestors. I suspect we’re going to see them in all the papers. I would encourage the news media: cover this story, tell the story on the 6 o’clock news about Jeff Sessions helping to prosecute a Klansman who murdered an innocent African American, put him on death row, and help[ed] bankrupt the Klan in Alabama. That’s a story that needs to be told. And Sen. Sessions, I thank you for your record. I thank you for your service.
Throughout Tuesday’s hearing, Cruz also took on the false smears peddled by the populist Alabamians’ partisan opponents — namely, Cruz pointed to Sen. Al Franken’s attempt to “impugn” Sessions’ integrity without having the facts to back up his attack. While it has received virtually no attention in the news media, Cruz noted that one of the central allegations against Sessions comes from a witness, Gerry Hebert, who undermined his own testimony— raising the specter of perjury and defamation—thirty years ago by smearing Sessions with demonstrably false allegations, which Hebert eventually had to recant and admit were “in error.” Nevertheless, Hebert’s record of fabricating allegations against Sessions has gone unacknowledged by those on the far-left and their corporate media allies who continue to parrot Hebert’s charges against Sessions. As Cruz said to Sessions:
Earlier in this hearing Sen. Franken, engaged you in an discussion that I think was intended to try to undermine your character and integrity… In particular Sen. Franken suggested that you had misrepresented your record. It is unfortunate to see members of this body impugn the integrity of a fellow senator with whom we have served for years. It is particularly unfortunate when that attack is not backed up by the facts. Sen. Franken based his attacks primarily on an op-ed written by an attorney Gerald Hebert. There is an irony in relying on Mr. Hebert because, as you well know, in 1986 during your confirmation hearing, [Hebert] testified then and attacked you then, making false allegations against you. And, again, I would note two days later, Mr. Hebert was forced to recant his testimony to say that he had given false testimony to this committee and indeed to say, ‘I apologize for any inconvenience caused Mr. Sessions or this committee by my prior testimony.’ So an individual who has testified falsely once before this committee, his op-ed is now the basis for Sen. Franken’s attacks on you.
Cruz explained that in 1981 in Mobile, Alabama, Klan members Henry Hays and James “Tiger” Knowles abducted 19-year-old African American Michael Donald at random. “They beat him, they strangled him, they cut his throat and they hung him from a tree.”
“Your [i.e. Sessions’] office along with the FBI along with the local district attorney investigated the murder,” Cruz said. “Department of Justice attorneys Barry Kowalski and Bert Glenn worked on the case. When asked about your work on this case, Mr. Glenn testified that, ‘during the entire course of the investigation, he [Sessions] has provided unqualified support and cooperation to us, and independently as an individual who absolutely wanted to see that crime solved and prosecuted.'”
Cruz explained how Bobby Eddy, the chief investigator on the case for the Mobile county District Attorney’s office, testified that “without his [i.e. Sessions’] cooperation the state could not have proceeded against Henry Hays on the capital murder charge.”
Cruz also noted the statements of Mobile county District Attorney Chris Galanos, who explained that during the investigation, his office “needed some horse power, which the Feds, through Jeff Sessions, provided.” Galanos said, “I reached out to him [Sessions] and he responded: ‘Tell me what you need, and you’ll have it.'” Cruz went on to say:
Henry Hays was tried in state court by Galanos’ office and sentenced to die in the electric chair. This made Hays the first white man to die for murdering a black person since 1913. When you were the Attorney General of Alabama, you later argued to uphold Hays death penalty. And in 1997… Hays died in Alabama’s electric chair. And I would note, not only did you assist in the prosecution of the face of evil a Ku Klux Klan murderer, who saw ulimatle justice, but as it so happened you also prosecuted Hays’ father KKK grand titan Benny Jack Hays, who ordered his son to kill an African American. And you prosecuted him for attempting to defraud his home insurer in order to collect money to pay for his son’s legal defense.
Beyond that, your office cooperated with… the Southern Poverty Law Center to bring a civil suit against the KKK. And Mr. Galanos explained, ‘After the criminal cases were over, the Southern Poverty Law Center took the evidence we had developed and gave to them, and they sued civilly and got a $7 million verdict on behalf of Ms. Donald.’ And the $7 million civil judgement against the KKK in Alabama bankrupted the Klan, leading to its demise in the state.
“In the recesses of the internet, and in some of the groups that are speaking on this nomination and in the view of some of the protestors who have made their voices heard today, there have been racial charges made [against Sessions],” Cruz said, noting that some of the anti-Sessions protestors even chanted ‘KKK’ during the hearing. “That is one of the easiest charges for someone to make when they don’t have an argument on the merit and don’t have the facts. And it is a particularly hurtful argument that it can be directed at someone particularly when it’s countered by the facts,” Cruz said.