State Journal-Register

December 14, 2002
 
Fitzgerald backs Lott

DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., said Friday he backs Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott despite the controversy over Lott's comments that appeared to endorse segregation.

"You need to be judged as a person on a lifetime of work - not on the few times you make public statements that are patently ridiculous," Fitzgerald said in a written statement.

"If I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with Senator Lott, I would not support him. But I have worked with him for some years and know him as a man dedicated to his Mississippi constituents, including and in particular the many African-Americans he represents." 

On Thursday, President Bush publicly rebuked Lott for his statements in support of South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond's segregationist 1948 presidential campaign, which Bush called "offensive" and "wrong." But Bush stopped short of calling for Lott's resignation.

Fitzgerald believes the president's criticisms "were appropriate," Fitzgerald spokesman Brian Stoller said.

However, retired Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., who attended the 100-year-old Thurmond's birthday party and heard Lott's remarks firsthand, said "the whole thing has been blown out of
context."

Earlier this week, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., spoke disapprovingly of Lott's comments. But he has not joined some black leaders in calling for Lott's resignation.