Washington (CNN)Sen. Jeff Sessions addressed past accusations of racism Tuesday at his Senate confirmation hearing for attorney general -- describing his experience as a southerner and an issue that has dogged his career for more than 20 years.
Jeff Sessions on racism charges: 'Caricature that was created of me wasn't accurate'
"When I came up as a United States Attorney, I had no real support group, I didn't prepare myself well in 1986, and there was an organized effort to caricature me as something that wasn't true," Sessions said, responding to a question posed by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina about how it felt to be labeled a racist or bigot.
"It was very painful, I didn't know how to respond, and didn't respond very well. I hope my tenure in this body has shown you that the caricature that was created of me wasn't accurate, it wasn't accurate then and it's not accurate now," the Alabama Republican added.
In 1986, Sessions was denied a federal judgeship after issues were raised about comments he had made regarding the Klu Klux Klan.
Although some consider him to be a controversial pick for attorney general, Sessions has maintained his position in politics as a US senator representing Alabama since the late '90s.
At the hearing Tuesday, Sessions noted he was "totally committed to maintaining the freedom and equality that this country has to provide to every citizen."
"As a southerner, who actually saw discrimination, and have no doubt it existed in a systematic and powerful and negative way unto the people ... millions of people in the south, particularly, of our country, I know that was wrong, and I know we need to do better, we can never go back," Sessions said.
Sessions is just one of a number of confirmation hearings that are set to take place this week for President-elect Donald Trump's various nominees.