(CNSNews.com) – During a congressional hearing Wednesday on the contentious issue of reparations for slavery, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) was accused of lying as he pointed out that the Democratic Party was the party historically associated with slavery and Jim Crow laws.
The hearing by the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties was the first in 12 years to examine the subject, and saw witnesses argue passionately for and against the idea that the descendants of slaves should receive reparations.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) calls for a commission to be set up to examine the lasting impact of slavery, and make recommendations on appropriate remedies. The legislation has been introduced 17 times over the past three decades, but has never advanced.
Noting earlier comments during the hearing on the importance of Americans knowing their history, Gohmert submitted into the record a copy of an article entitled “Our History” on the Democratic National Committee website, and wondered why it included no references to:
--The party’s platform in support of slavery, six times, between 1840-1860.
--The fact seven Democratic presidents owned slaves.
--The party’s platforms “that either supported segregation outright or were silent on the subject,” 20 times between 1868 and 1948.
--The fact three-fourths of the opposition in the House to the 1964 Civil Rights Act came from Democrats, along with 80 percent of the opposition in the Senate.
--The role the Democratic Party played in creating Jim Crow laws. (“These were the post-Civil War laws passed enthusiastically by Democrats in that pesky 50-year part of the DNC’s missing years.”)
“And last but certainly not least,” Gohmert said, “there’s no reference to the fact that Birmingham, Alabama public safety commissioner Bull Connor, who infamously unleashed dogs and firehoses on civil rights protestors, was in fact both a member of the Democratic National Committee and the Ku Klux Klan.”
“So it is important that we know our history and we not punish people today for the sins of their predecessors in the Democratic Party, but—”
“You lie!” a voice in the chamber called out.
Gohmert chuckled. “I just stated all facts and – again, we have people who are denying history. That’s not helpful to our discussion.”
An activist and talk radio host by the name of Rev. Mark Thompson identified himself on Twitter as the heckler.
Earlier one of the witnesses, retired NFL veteran Burgess Owens, also took the Democratic Party to task.
Owens told the panel that he used to be a Democrat, until he learned about “the misery that that party brought to my race.”
The former Oakland Raider said he does not believe in reparations for slavery, but he does believe in “restitution.”
“Let’s point to the party that was part of slavery, KKK, Jim Crow, that has killed over 40 percent of our black babies, 20 million of them,” he said.
“In the state of California, 75 percent of our black boys cannot pass a standard reading and writing test – a Democratic state,” Owens said. “How about the Democratic Party pay for all the misery brought to my race?’
“And those, after we learn our history, who decide to stay there, they should pay also, they’re complicit,” he continued. “And every white American, Republican or Democrat, who feels guilty because of your white skin, you should need to pony up also. That way we can get past this reparation and recognize that this country has given us greatness.”
Also testifying, author Ta-Nehisi Coates had a response for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said on Tuesday, “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea.”
While slavery ended before McConnell’s time, Coates said, what he characterized as the “inheritance of slavery” did not.
“For a century after the Civil War black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror, a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell,” he said.
“We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox but he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney [in 1944]. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodward [in 1946]. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama, and a regime premised on electoral theft.”
Coates is the author of a much-cited 2014 article for The Atlantic entitled “The Case for Reparations.”
Many of Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls who are currently in Congress have expressed support for Jackson Lee’s H.R.40 and its Senate companion bill.
Three of the four Democratic House members in the 2020 presidential race are among the 64 co-sponsors of H.R.40, while the Senate bill, S.1083, was authored by presidential contender Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) and its 12 co-sponsors include five other Democratic senators in the presidential race.