Praise for Lott Is Hollow, Given His Seamy Past

By Stanley Crouch
New York Daily News
From: News and Views | Opinion |
Wednesday, January 13, 1999

Over the weekend, as I watched Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott being hailed as a statesman because of the deal that was worked out on handling President Clinton's Senate trial, I felt disgust for my profession. Somebody was dropping the ball.

I find myself stunned by the free ride this man is getting despite the facts that have piled up about his long association with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "shot through with white supremacist views, members and political positions."

Gordon Lee Baum, head of the CCC, denies that, saying the organization is "pro-white but not racist."

But Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center says that what makes the Lott tale odd is that "the story has been followed by columnists, not news reporters � and there is plenty of news there. The news reporters have either been asleep on this or they have been looking in other directions."

My Daily News colleague Sidney Zion observed on the Bill Mazer radio show that television interviewers have been letting Lott get by on this because if they confront him with questions he doesn't like, he can refuse to appear on their shows again. We have a form of censorship in the quest for ratings. Money, honey.

Still, I believe Lott knows he is in serious danger of losing power if attention stays on him through a long and difficult trial. A sheet might slip from under his jacket, get caught in a media gust of wind and sail him to political doom. The sooner the trial is over, the better. He's no dummy.

If Lott plays the part of a statesman well enough, he might even come out of it a cotton-candy media hero � gooey, sticky and sickening. Then his party could gather around him and say that even though he might have lain down with dogs and gotten up with fleas in the past, his reasoned approach to the impeachment trial is a good enough flea collar to justify forgiving him his time in the wilderness of bigotry. Forgive and forget, move on with the business of the country. That was him then, this is him now.

But that doesn't change the facts.

When things started rumbling about Brother Lott's connection to the Council of Concerned Citizens, that son of Mississippi sent word out through his press secretary, John Czwartacki, who Dec. 13 told the Los Angeles Times that Lott only "vaguely" recalled speaking to the CCC more than 10 years before. Czwartacki went on to say that Lott "doesn't consider himself a member, nor does he have first-hand familiarity or knowledge of their views."

But the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has some rather damning information about the Senate majority leader and the CCC. FAIR reports that in 1997, Lott held a private meeting with the CCC in his Washington office, and his endorsement of the organization was quoted in the group's literature. FAIR also says that in 1995 he addressed the Mississippi chapter of the CCC; in 1992, he celebrated the CCC for its philosophy, its principles and the direction it was taking; in 1991, he gave a speech to the CCC's Mississippi chapter; in 1989, he appeared in the CCC publication, Citizens Informer, with his uncle, a CCC executive, and his cousin, also a member, and from 1990-98, the Citizens Informer published Lott's column.

If this information rises high enough into public view, Lott will walk the plank, joining Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston in the cold, cold water.

© Copyright 1999 Daily News, L.P.