One of the more outrageous allegations made during Jeff Sessions’ 1986 confirmation hearing was aired by then-Senator Joe Biden, who asserted that Sessions had been accused of using the “n-word” five years earlier in 1981. The Guardian resurrected the charge shortly after Sessions’ nomination was announced last month and managed to obtain an interview with the alleged object of the slur, Douglas Wicks.
So who is Douglas Wicks?
Wicks was the first black county commissioner to be elected in Mobile County. According to Biden, the alleged incident occurred during a November 1981 election law case involving Wicks in which Sessions was representing the losing party “not as a U.S. attorney but as counsel.” Biden’s source alleged that after a particularly heated hearing, Sessions told Dan Wiley, a Democratic politician and former county commissioner, that one of the white county commissioners “[would] be watching” Wiley and Wicks. Biden’s source alleged that Sessions had used the “n-word” to refer to Wicks.
Accusations based on racial slurs are inflammatory in any case, so it’s not surprising that Biden failed to notice basic problems with the story. For instance: Would a top federal prosecutor bother to step into a county election dispute only four months after confirmation? And if so, would he have done so as private counsel, thereby creating conflicts of interest for the entire U.S. Attorney’s office? Had Biden been interested in the truth, he could have called either Wicks or Wiley as witnesses. He wasn’t, so he was content to publicize the anonymous slander.
But if Biden was privately skeptical about the credibility of these witnesses, he had good reason. The following year, Wicks would go on to be sentenced to 15 years in prison for extorting money from people having business before the county. Later, in 1999, Wiley would be sentenced to two years in federal prison for federal tax fraud and money laundering.
Wiley died in 2008, but the Guardian did manage to scrape up some double hearsay from Wicks: “Wicks . . . said he did not hear Sessions use racist language himself but was informed that he had done so by Cain Kennedy, who was Alabama’s first black circuit judge. Kennedy, a former state legislator, died in 2005.”
It is particularly strange that Wicks would cite Kennedy as his source, since Kennedy actually supported Sessions’ nomination in 1986. During Sessions’ confirmation hearing, Kennedy signed a telegram from the judges on his circuit to the committee describing Sessions as having an “excellent” reputation, arguing that “he would make an excellent federal district judge and would rule impartially in all matters presented to him,” and “urg[ing] you to support this fine candidate and his nomination to the federal bench.” Would Judge Kennedy have signed that letter to support someone who used a racial slur to describe a black man?
If the Judiciary Committee calls Wicks this time around, he may face questions about his reliability as a witness. In recent years, he claims to have had a variety of unusual religious experiences, including a series of word-for-word messages from the Holy Spirit which he published in a 2011 book. I’m prepared to accept the idea that the Deity could give personal revelations, but Wicks’ revelations run the gamut from just goofy to arguably racist.
For example, Wicks claims to have had a revelation from the Holy Spirit about a conversion process between light and other forms of energy:
HOLY SPIRIT: “When compressed individual rays of light are accelerated in the opposite direction of their travel a counter energy force is created that produces energy that may be channeled to produce power.”
WICKS: “Note: The Gillette Razor Fusion commercial I first saw on television about 2005 or 2006 is a picture of the vision I was given how the light energy power conversion process may be achieved.”
Wicks also cites the Holy Spirit as revealing to him a history of “Black people” that even David Duke might consider over-the-top:
HOLY SPIRIT: “On the matter of race and the origin of Black people as we now know them; came from the region of Babylon where the tower was constructed, as were all others (people). Blacks were the first rulers of the earth, as was Nimrod. They worshipped a god called “Occult” that was an evil angel of Satan. They worshipped this false god and became his subjects. The people made oaths and vows to always manifest the false god’s seed. In return he gave them favor through occultist powers that were used to oppress others and have them worship them as god’s representatives on earth. A generational curse was given in seed form when every baby born was sacrificed unto this satanic angel, Occult (Gen 10: 8-10). The seed was planted to stop the work of you and others of your spiritual heritage. Violence spread upon the earth through Nimrod’s vision of Satan’s plan. Nimrod required all babies born to be sacrificed to the occult god and receive the seed of Satan. The seed of Nimrod caused (spiritual) darkness to descend upon black people and to stray from light. Enmity came between blacks and other groups of people according to their language. The language of the blacks was the language used by the demons to oppress the people of other groups.”
Is this someone the Judiciary Committee would really take seriously on matters of racism?
Special thanks to our partners at America Rising Squared, whose excellent work has provided important background information for the Sessions nomination.