Attorney General Jeff Sessions faced backlash on Monday after making comments about the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” at a National Sheriff’s Association meeting, which some civil rights groups called “racially-tinged.”
In a speech in front of the National Sheriffs’ Association, Sessions spoke about his admiration for Sheriffs and history of law enforcement in the U.S.
“I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to, and accountable to, people through the elected process,” said Sessions. “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”
The NAACP, one of the country’s largest civil rights organizations, quickly condemned Sessions’ comments.
“His decision to link the term Sheriff to some part “of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” is an unfortunate yet consistent aspect of the language coming out of the Department of Justice under his tenure and in the opinion of the NAACP, qualifies as the latest example of dog whistle politics,” the organization said in a statement.
Many people expressed outrage online over the attorney general’s comments, even calling him “racist.”
Reminder that our Attorney General is an outright racist who wants us all to acknowledge "Anglo-American heritage." pic.twitter.com/5YL2iIl2Mv
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 13, 2018
Bernice King, daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., shared a letter that her mother wrote in 1986, where she opposed Sessions becoming a federal judge.
"The irony of Mr. Sessions' nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.” #CorettaScottKing, 1986 https://t.co/hZzSTKj6UY
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) February 12, 2018
The Department of Justice told ABC News that Sessions was referring to the common law legal heritage and not race.