Leave it to Norh Carolina Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx to make yet another foolish and insulting statement in what almost is becoming old hat for her. In a debate about a project that mostly was unrelated, Foxx used the opportunity (and the platform it provided) to attack Democrats and prop up Republicans using the Civil Rights Movement as her weapon of choice. Foxx claimed, “Just as we were the people who passed the civil rights bills back in the ’60s without very much help from our colleagues across the aisle. They love to engage in revisionist history.” But, as she yielded her time, Congressman Dennis Cardoza, a Democrat from California, rose and issued a strong response against Rep. Foxx.
CARDOZA: Today, what I’m hearing on the floor really takes the cake. The gentlelady from North Carolina, in her statement just now, indicated that the Republican GOP had passed the Civil Rights Act legislation with almost no help from the Democrats. I can’t believe my ears. It was the Kennedy and Johnson administration where we passed that Great Society legislation. It was over the objections of people like Jesse Helms from the gentlewoman’s state that we passed that civil rights legislation. John Lewis…
FOXX: Would, would the gentleman yield?
CARDOZA: No, I will not yield. John Lewis, a member of this House, was beaten on the Edmund Pettus bridge to get that civil rights legislation passed. Tell John Lewis that he wasn’t part of getting that legislation passed.
Helms was a United States senator from 1973 through 2003. While he was not around in the 1960s, Helms was clearly no friends to blacks or to those who fought, bled and died during the Civil Rights Movement.
Foxx rises later and says that Helms was not elected until 1972 and “was not in the Congress when the Civil Rights legislation was passed in the 60s.”
She is technically correct, but her victory is a weak one. It’s kind of like being proud of outrebounding your opponent, in basketball, by five when you lost the game by 25 points.
Helms blasted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (source: Wikipedia):
Helms opposed many progressive policies regarding race, such as busing, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Helms called the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ‘the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress’, and sponsored legislation to either extend it to the entire country or scrap it altogether. Helms reminded voters that he tried, with a 16-day filibuster, to stop the Senate from approving a federal holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, although he had fewer reservations about establishing a North Carolina state holiday for King. He has been accused of being a segregationist by liberals and political scholars including USA Today‘s DeWayne Wickham who wrote that Helms ‘subtly carried the torch of white supremacy‘ from Ben Tillman.
In 1996 the Department of Justice admonished Helms’s 1990 campaign for mailing 125,000 postcards to households in predominantly African-American precincts warning them (incorrectly) that they could go to jail if they had not updated their addresses on the electoral register since moving. Helms opposed ‘every piece of civil rights and affirmative action legislation’ and blocked ‘Black judges from being considered for the federal bench’. In 1982, he voted against the extension of the Voting Rights Act. Helms opposed busing, supported the ‘racist apartheid regime of South Africa’, and ‘for years blocked attempts by President Bill Clinton to appoint a Black judge on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’. Only when Helms’s own judicial choices were threatened with blocking did attorney Roger Gregory of Richmond, Virginia get confirmed. Helms tried to block the nomination of Carol Moseley Braun, the first African-American female senator, as ambassador to New Zealand.
Her defense of Jesse Helms is more pathetic than the original point that put her in the hole in the first place.