Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Wednesday's rejection of a nominee for the Justice Department revealed a racial "double standard."
“Here is the message we sent today: if you’re a young white person and you go to work for a law firm, you’re a lawyer sworn into the bar … and a law firm assigns you to defend a person who killed eight people in cold blood … you might wind up to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."
"However, if you are a young black person and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and they assign you to appeal a case of someone who committed a heinous murder … the message sent today is don’t do it … if you keep your legal obligations with your profession you will be denied the opportunity to be an assistant Attorney General.
“Shame on this Senate,” Harkin said. “We have a terrible double standard.”
The nomination of Adegbile, who is black, was rejected in a 47-52 vote. Seven Democrats broke ranks to oppose his nomination.
Adegbile was the director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) when it worked to commute Abu-Jamal’s death sentence. Faulkner’s widow, the Fraternal Order of Police and Republicans argued this should disqualify him from the Justice job, while supporters warned a rejection would set a dangerous precedent of punishing lawyers for doing their jobs.
Obama called the vote against Adegbile a "travesty," and accused lawmakers of succumbing to "wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant."
"The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice — and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant," Obama said.
Harkin said Adegbile's work on the Abu-Jamal case was irrelevant to his nomination.
“The Supreme Court Justice defended someone who committed mass murder,” Harkin said. “Did we here one peep from the [Republican] side? No … and rightfully so. It should never have been an issue.”