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Story highlights

Sessions has a controversial history with civil rights

Several groups are calling on the public to hold him accountable

(CNN) —  

Several civil rights organizations are blasting President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to tap Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general given the Alabama Republican’s controversial statements on civil rights.

He was once denied an appointment to a federal district court in the 1980s after a former Justice Department employee testified that Sessions had made racially tinged remarks. Sessions denied the allegation.

Related: A closer look at allegations of racism

Sessions has denounced the 1965 Voting Rights Act and had labeled the ACLU and the NAACP “un-American” and said the organizations “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”

A black Justice Department staffer once said Sessions had called him “boy” and claimed Sessions had thought the Ku Klux Klan “were OK until I found out they smoked pot.”

Related: Donald Trump taps hardliners for national security team

Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson tweeted on Friday, “The Trump cabinet is like a KKK Convention being broadcast on primetime TV.”

The NAACP, an organization that has long advocated for the rights of African-Americans in the United States, slammed the appointment of Sessions, tweeting on Friday, “Sen. Sessions as AG is deeply troubling, and supports an old, ugly history where Civil Rights were not regarded as core American values.”

And the ACLU asked that the public hold Sessions accountable for his past during his confirmation.

“In his confirmation hearings, senators, the media, and the American public should closely examine his stances on these key issues to ensure we can have confidence in his ability to uphold the Constitution and our laws on behalf of all Americans,” the group said in a statement.

A spokesman from the Council on American-Islamic Relations told CNN that they were disappointed with the choice and want to educate the public about Sessions past.

“Unfortunately, we see his nomination as a part of a troubling trend of appointing and nominating of those holding Islamophobic views,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told CNN. “We first saw it with Stephen Bannon, we see it with General Flynn as national security advisor … Sen. Sessions has backed Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States. We’re just trying to educate people about the past views and associations about these appointees and nominees.”

Related: Trump picks Sessions for attorney general

Voto Latino, a nonprofit that serves to get Latino millennials involved in politics, called on the Senate not to approve Sessions.

“Our country demands an Attorney General who will uphold the Voting Rights Act, not one who believes it’s an intrusive piece of legislation, and we call on the Senate to soundly reject Sen. Sessions’ nomination,” CEO Maria Teresa Kumar said about Sessions’ appointment.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, “(Sessions’) record of misogyny and racism makes him unfit to be the country’s top lawyer. The American people deserve far better, but with Donald Trump at the helm, we know we won’t get it.”

And Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, slammed Sessions for his record of “attacking women’s accss to health care and access to safe and legal abortion.”

She said in a statement, “Nominating an Attorney General who that has supported racism and discrimination throughout his career is not what that looks like. We expect the Senate to conduct a full and fair confirmation process for Senator Sessions including a robust examination and evaluation of his record and his fitness to serve in this critical role.”