Nevertheless, She Persisted: Elizabeth Warren Reads Coretta Scott King's Words In Defiance Of Senate Vote

Mitch McConnell's criticism of Warren became a rallying cry.

The day after they pulled an all-nighter on the floor in opposition to Betsy DeVos' nomination for Secretary of Education, Senate Democrats again took the floor on Wednesday to oppose President Trump's pick for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions. They spoke for hours against Sessions' record and repeatedly questioned why a man who lost out on a judicial appointment in the 1980s for racial bias could be poised to become the most powerful lawyer in the country. 

Considering the Democrats' forceful final opposition to Trump's final and arguably most controversial nominee (after Devos), the late-night session would have made headlines on Wednesday morning anyway. But a confrontation during the debate snagged more attention than it clearly intended to. While holding the floor, progressive firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren recited a letter from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s widow, Coretta Scott King, opposing Session's appointment in 1986. "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens," King wrote more than 30 years ago. 

Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell objected to Warren reading the letter and accused her of impugning a fellow senator. Together, Republican Senators voted to silence her.

"I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate," Warren declared, before she was ordered to take a seat and effectively prohibited from speaking on the Senate floor until Session's nomination was completed. 

"She was warned," McConnell said. "She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted."

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Warren later went on MSNBC to discuss the incident, then livestreamed a reading of the letter in its entirety on Facebook, making clear that despite her Republican colleagues' decision, the American people would hear what she had to say. Discussion about the episode in its immediate aftermath spread like wildfire on social media under the hashtags #LetLizSpeak and #ShePersists. Across the country, many came out in support of Warren and urged others to read King's letter. 

In his efforts at silencing the Massachusetts senator, McConnell's words unwittingly became a rallying cry for equality advocates across the country in the same way that "Nasty Woman" took off after Trump intended it as an insult for Hillary Clinton during the election. 

Perhaps Republicans realized later the effects of their vote to silence Warren. When Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregonian Democrat, read the letter on the floor afterwards, they neither objected nor interrupted. 

Watch Warren read King's full letter: 

Cover image via Andrew Cline / Shutterstock

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