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Former State Officials Urge Trump Not To "Equivocate" On "The Voice Of Hate"

A group of 66 former state and territorial attorneys general, from both parties, urge that "all who seek to equivocate in times of moral crisis" should look to the 1976 response of Alabama's attorney general at the time to the Ku Klux Klan: "[K]iss my ass."

Posted on August 21, 2017, at 6:10 p.m. ET

Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

A bipartisan group of more than five dozen former state attorneys general on Monday issued a call for leaders — including the president — not to "equivocate" when faced with "the voice of hate."

In a statement, 66 former state and territorial attorneys general, including former Senators Joseph Lieberman and Slade Gorton, call for a strong response to groups like the Ku Klux Klan and others who espouse white supremacist views.

The statement comes as President Trump faces continued questions about his response to the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville earlier this month, leaving one counter-protester dead. Over the weekend, Jerry Falwell Jr., for example, defended Trump's comments this past week that some "very fine people" were with the white supremacists during a Friday evening rally.

"There are times in the life of a nation, or a president, or a state attorney general when one is called upon to respond directly to the voice of hate," the statement reads. "As former state attorneys general, we take the liberty of reminding Americans — as we remind ourselves — that events can call out the worst in us — and the best."

The signatories include Democrats like Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Bill Lockyer of California, and Republicans like Betty Montgomery of Ohio and Grant Woods of Arizona, as well as include longtime attorneys general like William Sorrell of Vermont and Drew Edmondson of Oklahoma. While the group includes Republican officials, people like Gorton, Montgomery, and Woods are longtime Trump critics.

By way of example, the group points back to the 1970s and a young state attorney general in Alabama, Bill Baxley. When he "began his quest to bring justice to the perpetrators of the Birmingham church bombing which killed four little girls" by reopening the 1963 case, they write, he "faced political furor" and "threats of physical violence and death."

In February 1976, in the midst of his efforts, the grand dragon of the KKK, Edward Fields, wrote a "threatening letter" to Baxley, demanding a response.

"My response to your letter of February 19, 1976, is — kiss my ass," Baxley wrote back the next day. He continued forward, and, in 1977, Baxley prosecuted and secured the conviction of Robert Chambliss in connection with the bombing.

"We commend his response to the attention of all who seek to equivocate in times of moral crisis," the former attorneys general wrote in their Monday statement.

The effort was headed up by James Tierney, the former Democratic attorney general of Maine and a lecturer at Harvard Law School on the role of state attorneys general, with support from Jeff Amestoy and John Easton, both of whom are former Republican attorneys general from Vermont.

The Full List of Signatories:

  • Robert Abrams, New York
  • Ronald Amemiya, Hawaii
  • Jeff Amestoy, Vermont
  • Bruce Babbitt, Arizona
  • Thurbert Baker, Georgia
  • Paul Bardacke, New Mexico
  • Steve Beshear, Kentucky
  • Bruce Botelho, Alaska
  • Margery Bronster, Hawaii
  • Charlie Brown, West Virginia
  • Richard Bryan, Nevada
  • Charles Burson, Tennessee
  • Bonnie Campbell, Iowa
  • Steve Clark, Arkansas
  • Walter Cohen, Pennsylvania
  • Robert Cooper, Tennessee
  • J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Maryland
  • Fred Cowan, Kentucky
  • Frankie Sue Del Papa, Nevada
  • Jerry Diamond, Vermont
  • Richard Doran, Florida
  • John Easton, Vermont
  • Rufus Edmisten, North Carolina
  • Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma
  • Tyrone Fahner, Illinois
  • Lee Fisher, Ohio
  • Karen Freeman-Wilson, Indiana
  • Terry Goddard, Arizona
  • Chris Gorman, Kentucky
  • Slade Gorton, Washington
  • Jennifer Granholm, Michigan
  • Scott Harshbarger, Massachusetts
  • Peter Harvey, New Jersey
  • Hubert H . Humphrey III, Minnesota
  • Drew Ketterer, Maine
  • Oliver Koppell, New York
  • Peg Lautenschlager, Wisconsin
  • Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut
  • Michael Lilly, Hawaii
  • Alicia Limtiaco, Guam
  • Bill Lockyer, California
  • David Louie, Hawaii
  • Robert Marks, Hawaii
  • Brian McKay, Nevada
  • Jeff Modisett, Indiana
  • Betty Montgomery, Ohio
  • Mike Moore, Mississippi
  • Jeffrey Pine, Rhode Island
  • Warren Price III, Hawaii
  • Hector Richard, Puerto Rico
  • Clarine Nardi Riddle, Connecticut
  • Dennis Roberts, Rhode Island
  • Stephen Rosenthal, Virginia
  • Stephen Sachs, Maryland
  • James Shannon, Massachusetts
  • Mark Shurtleff, Utah
  • William Sorrell, Vermont
  • Rbert Spagnoletti, District of Columbia
  • Robert Stephan, Kansas
  • Mary Sue Terry, Virginia
  • James Tierney, Maine
  • Anthony F. Troy, Virginia
  • Jim Guy Tucker, Arkansas
  • Paul Van Dam, Utah
  • Bob Wefald, North Dakota
  • Grant Woods, Arizona
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