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Lott takes case to BET on Monday

Senator to explain remarks before mostly black audience

From John Mercurio

Trent Lott plans to expand upon his explanation for his December 5 remarks on Strom Thurmond.
Trent Lott plans to expand upon his explanation for his December 5 remarks on Strom Thurmond.

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Views of Trent Lott from two taverns in Pascagoula, Mississippi. (December 14)
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Lott apologizes for his remark praising then-segregationist Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential bid. (December 13)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fighting to save his job and calm colleagues who fear he has damaged the Republican Party, incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott will address a largely black television audience Monday over remarks he himself called "insensitive."

Lott's efforts at damage control could take on new urgency after the Senate's No. 2 Republican, Don Nickles, R-Oklahoma, called Sunday for a new election for the majority leader post that Lott is set to hold in the new Congress. (Full story)

In his first-ever appearance on Black Entertainment Television, Lott plans to expand upon his explanation for his December 5 remarks that the country would have been "a lot better off" if then-segregationist Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948.

The Mississippi Republican also plans to use his appearance on the cable network to outline a series of new initiatives designed to bolster his image as a civil rights supporter, according to Lott spokesman Ron Bonjean.

"Sen. Lott believes this is an effort to open a dialogue on the serious issues of race, diversity and opportunity between Americans," Bonjean said Saturday. "This will be an ongoing effort."

During a news conference Friday in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Lott announced he had accepted a request from Robert Johnson, chief executive officer of BET, to hold a one-hour event to discuss "my hopes and dreams for the people in this state and this country."

Based in Washington, BET has added about 2 million subscriber homes per year since 1984, currently reaching more than 74 million homes, according to the network's Web site.

Despite Lott's efforts to intensify his campaign of forgiveness, at least two Senate Republicans joined a telephone conference call shortly after Lott's press conference Friday and voiced serious concerns about the damage Lott had done to GOP efforts to reach out to black voters, according to congressional sources.

Those lawmakers were Nickles and Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, the sources said. Both have been mentioned as possible successors to Lott if he steps down.

Lott organized but did not participate in the conference call, his office said.

Meanwhile, some Senate Democrats are considering a move to censure Lott for his remarks, according to Democratic sources. During the GOP conference call, senators said they may respond to such a move by pushing a separate censure resolution against Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, Republican sources said.

Byrd, who served as Senate majority leader from 1977 to 1980 and again from 1987 to 1988, also has drawn fire for making comments some considered racially insensitive.

Lott will remain in Pascagoula through this weekend and plans to return to Washington on Monday for his BET interview, his spokesman said.

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