Apparently the words of the wife of Martin Luther King were too much for Senate Republicans on Tuesday, and it drove them to try to gag one of President Trump’s most vocal critics. But in doing so, it unleashed even harsher criticisms of GOP legislators.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, while on the Senate floor debating the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, began to read a letter written about him by Corretta Scott King in 1986, when he had been nominated as a federal judge. The letter which was been recently publicized by The Washington Post, warned that Sessions’ actions concerning the voting rights of African-Americans in Alabama signified that he was ill-fit for the position.

But Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell invoked an old chamber rule saying that Warren was “impugning the motives” of Sessions and after a vote, Warren was silenced. This mean that she is now barred from speaking again on the Senate floor on Sessions nomination. The action caused anger among Democrats because far worse things have been said during debates in the chamber.

“I’m reading a letter from Coretta Scott King to the Judiciary Committee from 1986 that was admitted into the record,” Warren retorted. “I’m simply reading what she wrote about what the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be a federal court judge meant and what it would mean in history for her.”

But that wasn’t the end of it at all. Warren fired back on CNN, saying “they can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth.”

Warren took to Twitter releasing a series of posts about what happened.

For his part, McConnell tried on the Senate floor why Warren was silenced: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Before long the highly partisan exchange turned into a trending hashtag #LetLizSpeak and Warren’s Democratic colleagues came to her defense.


Democrats pointed out that McConnell didn’t object when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called him a liar in a 2015 dustup.

The episode was followed by lamentations by Senate veterans, including its most senior Republican, Orrin Hatch of Utah, about how the Senate is too partisan.

Others publicly objected to Warren’s treatment. Rev. William Barber, head of the Moral Mondays movement, released a statement rebuking the Senate for the silencing. “Senator Elizabeth Warren quoting Coretta Scott King exposed the truth about Senator Jeff Sessions’ history of embracing systemic racism,” Barber said. “Mrs. King’s words were based in fact back then and they should be considered now. Senator Warren was wrongfully rebuked by Republican extremist because they cannot  handle the truth.”

A vote by the Senate on Sessions is expected by late Wednesday.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from an earlier version.