Civil Rights Opponent Tony Perkins Joins In Attacks On Senator Reid

December 09, 2009 2:02 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) compared Republicans trying to derail health care reform to opponents of abolition and civil rights.  Republicans pounced on the comment almost immediately, "pretending to be offended" and attempting to create a media controversy to aid their obstruction efforts. 

Yesterday, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins joined in the attacks on Reid.  In his "Washington Update," Perkins called Reid's comment "the most absurd quote of the health care debate" because Republicans are actually responsible for civil rights:

Today, his office may have defended those remarks, but what they cannot defend is Sen. Reid's distortion of the facts. It was his party--not the GOP--who stood in the way of American freedom. Every vote against the Thirteenth Amendment to free the slaves was cast by a Democrat. Every vote against Lincoln 's Emancipation Proclamation was cast by a Democrat. In 1922, when Republicans tried to outlaw lynching, Senate Democrats filibustered the bill until it died and continued filibustering against it until it was approved in 1957. When the great Civil Rights Act of 1964 finally passed, Republicans in the Senate backed it 23-6, but Democrats in the majority approved by only 44-23. Without the Republican Party, it wouldn't have become the law of the land.

Sen. Reid isn't making history--he's making it up! If his party shows this much disregard for the past, then Americans should be terribly worried about their future. When the Majority Leader is willing to rewrite history to score cheap political points, how can we trust him with something as vital as health care?

This ineffectual argument has been addressed here and elsewhere.  Still, it bears repeating that while political parties have changed dramatically over the years, the opponents of civil rights in America have historically been southern and conservative.  Perkins, incidentally, is both. 

What's more, Perkins' own record on civil rights is embarrassing.  For one thing, he runs a fervently anti-gay organization (FRC) dedicated to opposing equal rights and waging public smear campaigns against homosexual individuals.  For another, he has a few too many ties to white supremacists.  Perkins has tried to explain away his financial connection to former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, but the FRC head has failed to justify this photograph of him speaking to the white supremacist Council for Conservative Citizens (he claims he doesn't remember): 

In other words, if Republicans insist on perpetuating this bastardization of history, they might want to distance themselves from unapologetic bigots.