December 12, 2002
Posted at: 8:50 a.m. CDT
Updated at: 12:55 p.m. CDT
WASHINGTON -- President Bush is denouncing Senate GOP leader Trent Lott's comments that implied praise for racial segregation.
He says any suggestion that segregation was positive ``is offensive and it is wrong.'' And he says Lott was right to apologize.
But the president's refusing to join calls for Lott to quit as Senate majority leader. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tells reporters Bush does not think Lott should resign.
Last week, at a retirement party for South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, Lott suggested that America would have been better off had Thurmond succeeded in his pro-segregation campaign for president in 1948.
At the birthday party for 100-year-old Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Lott said Mississippians were proud to have voted for Thurmond as president in 1948. He said if the rest of the country had followed suit, "We wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."
Speaking in Philadelphia, Bush said those remarks ``do not reflect the spirit'' of America.
Bush's comments follow several days of silence as the furor grew -- fueled not only by attacks from Democrats, but from conservative commentators as well.
Senator Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and other members of the state's congressional delegation have denounced comments made by Lott.
Lincoln said she would support any moves by the Democratic leadership to request Lott's resignation.
Congressman Vic Snyder called Lott's comments ``outrageously stupid.''
Lincoln said Lott owes the country an explanation. Lott apologized, calling his comments a poor choice of words. Congressman John Boozman, the only Republican of Arkansas' congressional delegation, joined Snyder and Lincoln in disapproving of Lott's comments.
Congressmen Mike Ross and Marion Berry also expressed disapproval.