By Manar Waheed , Legislative and Advocacy Counsel, ACLU
I should have woken up Wednesday disgusted by President Trump retweeting the anti-Muslim videos of an extremist, racist “leader” in another country. This alleged leader is a part of Britain First, a political organization which has built many of its policies and actions around anti-Muslim sentiment — demanding the prohibition of an entire religion, the denial of places of worship, and the deportation or imprisonment of its followers. I didn’t feel shock or surprise though because it seemed just another day on Twitter for our president.
But they are not just tweets. They are part of a larger agenda, one piece of which is putting like-minded people into positions of power. Recently, Trump nominated Brett Talley, a lawyer with a long record of bald-faced bigotry, to serve as a federal judge in Alabama.
To say that Talley’s nomination requires a thorough Senate hearing — or in this case, an additional hearing — is an understatement at best. Historically, judicial nominations have undergone thorough vetting by the Senate Judiciary Committee because of the importance and power of a judicial position as well as the fact that judges serve for life. Unfortunately, Talley lied on his Senate questionnaire when he failed to disclose numerous details, including over 15,000 posts on a message board which he wrote under a different name.
Any ideas what might have been in them? Spoiler alert: white supremacist, racist lies, which promote hatred and fear. He came to the defense of “the first KKK.” He claimed that Muslims are terrorists. He wrote that Islam promotes “the murder of non-believers” while perpetuating Trump’s statement that “Islam hates us.”
While the ACLU does not support or oppose judicial nominations, Talley’s statements and his failure to disclose them warrant additional review by the Senate. The Senate should not vote on the nomination until after a new hearing so that Talley can answer questions on the postings that he hid from the Senate. We should all let our senators know that they aren’t fulfilling their constitutional roles unless they have a chance to read and debate all of the discriminatory statements made by Trump’s nominee.
Ultimately, Talley and Trump’s agenda are not dissimilar from Britain First and have been getting the thumbs-ups from white supremacists here in America. In fact, David Duke, the former KKK leader, praised Trump’s retweets, while British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson criticized them and Dutch officials debunked the inaccuracy of one tweet. But Trump officials stood by the racist tweets, even while acknowledging the videos might not be real.
When it comes to this agenda of fear and hatred, facts do not matter, and lies will be told. Why wouldn’t Trump retweet such inflammatory, hateful positions without verification or concern for their impact? They are, after all, in line with his own views and those of the people he’s appointing to govern.
Under the Trump administration, it’s hard to be outraged all the time at everything that is happening because it is, after all, just another day. But it is our America — every race, ethnicity, and religion. So unfortunately for Trump and his army of like-minded people such as Talley, Muslims — like me — are a huge part of our nation and the promotion of hatred and bigotry from Twitter to the bench is unacceptable. This week’s tweets cannot be forgotten, they are reverberating through our government. In this case, it is the Senate that has the power to hold Talley accountable.