Against Ashcroft
A sampling of some of the groups lined up against the nomination of John Ashcroft for Attorney General, and of their rhetoric.
  • All quotes are from written statements or releases issued by the groups on the dates indicated.
Kate Michelman, president of NARAL, speaks against the Ashcroft nomination at a Jan. 9, 2001 news conference; to her right is Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
See Also: Stop Ashcroft

At left: Opponents of the Ashcroft nomination tried to get their message out by showing up near the Jan. 16 Capito Hill rally in support of Ashcroft. 

Following are quotes extracted from statements from groups opposing the Ashcroft nomination, organized alphabetically by group.  Since President-elect Bush announced the nomination of Ashcroft on Dec. 22, 2000, the Missourian has become a lightening rod for criticism from liberal groups.  A news conference on Jan. 9, 2001 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington marked a coalescing of the opposition (thirty different organizations had written statements at that event).  The groups' major concerns include abortion and reproductive rights, civil rights, gun control, and separation of church and state. 
"Throughout his career, John Ashcroft has shown time and again that he puts partisanship and petty political goals far above fairness and equal rights...  Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that Senator Ashcroft has played politics with the judiciary for years."

Nan Aron, president, Alliance for Justice -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Ashcroft's nomination is a nightmare for civil libertarians and state-church separationists...  He was the architect of the 'charitable choice' provision for the 1996 welfare reform act, and he, Bush and the rest of this new administration seek to widen the scope of those unconstitutional policies."

Ellen Johnson, president, American Atheists, Inc. -- Jan. 3, 2001

"Senator Ashcroft's record has not been one of total hostility to civil liberties.  He led efforts to protect the right to communicate privately by supporting free use of encryption and voted repeatedly to protect free speech rights in the context of campaign finance reform.  That said, however, the vast majority of Sen. Ashcroft's policy positions indicate that he fundamentally disagrees with core tenets of the Bill of Rights and Constitution as they are currently applied."

Laura W. Murphy, director Washington National Office, American Civil Liberties Union -- Jan . 9, 2001

"Nominees to this vital position should meet a minimum standard of qualification--a commitment to equal justice for all.  AAUW believes that Senator Ashcroft's extreme record in opposition to civil and reproductive rights makes him incapable of upholding and enforcing current law."

Nancy Zirkin, director of public policy and government relations, American Association of University Women -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Senator Ashcroft lacks the integrity, the temperament and the commitment ot equal justice under the law required for an Attorney General.  Were his views to become those of the Justice Department, they would threaten every federal labor and employment law currently protecting working families.  His views are at radical odds with the laws over which an Attorney General has authority--from the role of the federal judiciary, to the role of the federal government in protecting the rights of all Americans, to the rights of women in the workplace.

"Senator Ashcroft's highly partisan attacks on executive and judicial appointments, together with his statements about litmus tests for these appointments, demonstrate a temperament at odds with that required for Attorney General.  He is clearly a divider..."

AFL-CIO Executive Council -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Ashcroft is an avowed opponent of the separation of church and state...  He is likely to use his office to further a reckless mixing of religion and government."
Barry W. Lynn, executive director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- Jan. 9, 2001

"By nominating a Religious Right favorite for attorney general, the president-elect has shown his true colors.  This nomination may please television evangelists like Robertson and Jerry Falwell, but it's a disaster for anyone who cares about maintaining constitutional principles."

Barry W. Lynn, executive director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- Dec. 22, 2000

"John Ashcroft's disregard of the rule of law and his extreme anti-woman ideology makes him an unfit candidate to lead the Department of Justice.  It is inappropriate for the nation's top law officer to be opposed to the rights of half the nation's population, yet Ashcroft's hostility to women's reproductive rights is fierce."

Janet Benshoof, president, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Senator Ashcroft has a history of disparaging the juvenile justice system, demonizing our children, and voting to lock kids up younger and lock them up longer rather than finding ways to prevent juvenile crime in the first place."

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice "Senator John Ashcroft on Juvenile Justice: Extreme Politics Before Effective Policy" -- Jan. 2001

"President-elect Bush campaigned as a 'compassionate conservative' and unifier.  However, the nomination of John Ashcroft is like pouring salt into an open wound.  A majority of voters did not vote for Bush.  He has no conservative mandate, yet he proposes a nominee whose views are out of line with a vast majority of Americans...  The Attorney General is charged with enforcing our country's gun laws.  Ashcroft has expressed an open disdain for many of these laws.  Can we count on this Attorney General to vigorously defend and enforce laws he has opposed?"

Joshua Horwitz, general counsel, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence -- Jan. 8, 2001

"John Ashcroft has been an ardent opponent of women's rights for over 20 years....  His willingness to stretch the law and use Missouri tax dollars to launch a three-year unsuccessful fight against NOW and the ERA all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court foreshadows how far he will go to fight and deny women's rights...  His utter lack of understanding of freedom of political speech and the right to take political action to achieve social justice exemplifies a track record where his right-wing ideology prevails over his legal judgment."

Eleanor Smeal, president, Feminist Majority -- Jan. 9, 2001

"How can we expect someone who has shown such contempt for our gun laws to defend those same laws?...  How can we expect someone who is so closely tied to special interest groups like the NRA to stand up to those same groups in court?  Senatorial courtesy is clearly outweighed by this nation's right to an Attorney General who will enforce and defend our gun laws."

Michael Barnes, president, Handgun Control -- Jan. 9, 2001

"As advocates for gay and lesbian Americans, we are troubled in two regards.  First, Senator Ashcroft has been more than willing to judge candidates for service to this nation based not on the merits but on labels and categories.  Senator Ashcroft rejected the notion that James Hormel could serve this country based solely on the fact that Mr. Hormel happens to be gay...  Senator Ashcroft also has a zero Human Rights Campaign voting record.  As a senator, he has made a variety of comments regarding gay people, often based on misinformation and revealing bias...  [W]e are concerned about the senator's opposition to basic hate crime protection at the federal level, and have serious doubts about his willingness to uphold the laws such as the Hate Crimes Statistics Act and the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act."

Elizabeth Birch, executive director, Human Rights Campaign -- Jan. 9, 2001

"In the Senate, Ashcroft consistently opposed the nomination and worked to block the confirmation of qualified minority candidates to positions on the bench or in the Administration.  He opposed the nomination of Bill Lann Lee, an APA nominated as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, because of Lee's support for affirmative action laws.  Ashcroft also opposed the nominations of two APA women for federal judgeships--Dolly Gee and Susan Oki Mollway -- and play a key role in blocking the confirmation of Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White, an African American, for the federal bench by distorting and grossly misrepresenting White's judicial record to his colleagues in the U.S. Senate."

Japanese American Citizens League -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Simply put, John Ashcroft’s views on a range of issues that would be the subjects of his work as Attorney General are just too extreme. His open hostility to the very laws and policies that protect the civil rights of all individuals in our society left the LCCR choice but to actively oppose his nomination."

Wade Henderson, executive director, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights -- Jan. 9, 2001

"We need an Attorney General who supports sensible gun laws to protect our kids and our communities.  Sen. John Ashcroft won't do that.  He's against banning assault weapons.  He's against background checks at gun shows.  He's against child safety locks.  He's for letting people carry concealed weapons--even in hospitals and churches.  He is in the pocket of the NRA and is not fit to fairly enforce gun laws."

Mary Leigh Blek, president, Million Mom March -- Jan. 9, 2001

"The National Abortion Federation is strongly opposed to the confirmation of John Ashcroft for US Attorney General because of our grave concern that he will not enforce the laws protecting abortion providers and their patients.  We fear an increase in the levels of violence directed against the dedicated health care professionals who provide safe, legal abortion services to women if Ashcroft becomes the next Attorney General."

Vicki Saporta, executive director, National Abortion Federation -- Jan. 9, 2001

"The fundamental rights of every American woman are at risk.  The designee to be the next Attorney General is a man whose record demonstrates a commitment to roll back established constitutional rights...  America needs an Attorney General who will protect women's constitutional rights, including the right to choose.  Ashcroft has worked to criminalize abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.  He proposed legislation defining life as beginning at fertilization, which would outlaw many common forms of birth control.  And his hostility to women's rights goes beyond reproductive choice..."

Kate Michelman, president, NARAL -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Not since Ed Meese would the U.S. have an Attorney General as hostile to a woman's right to choose.  This appointment signals Bush's down payment on his IOU to the anti-choice hardliners."

Kate Michelman, president, NARAL -- Dec. 22, 2000

"During his six years as U.S. Senator, Ashcroft used his position to block and hinder civil rights and equal opportunity for women and minorities."

Karen K. Narasaki, executive director, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium -- Jan. 2001

"It is outrageous for President-elect Bush to select someone who has consistently opposed civil rights and affirmative action to be responsible for enforcing the nation's laws.  Ashcroft has one of the Senate's most negative voting records on civil rights."

Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- Dec. 22, 2000

"Ashcroft's legacy on criminal justice issues is demagoguery and opportunism...  His relentless, rigid, and self-righteous record on criminal justice issues makes him unqualified to set the rules for who will be prosecuted, and for what, and what should be the range of punishment."

Edward Mallett, president, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers -- Jan. 14, 2001

"During his years as senator, Ashcroft has disproportionately delayed and denied the confirmation of minorities and women to both the federal courts and the executive branch.  NASW is committed to advocate for individual liberties and social justice for all....  Ashcroft, a staunch opponent of woman's right to reproductive choice, has drafted legislation to eradicate abortion regardless of the circumstances.  This legislation also would make some forms of birth control illegal.  NASW believes in reproductive freedom and safe access to reproductive health services, including abortion services."

National Association of Social Workers -- Jan. 10, 2001

"Rather than unite us, this appointment is divisive.  It sends a message to women and minorities that the new Administration favors policies far outside the mainstream of American values and jurisprudence.  It calls into question whether the new Administration intends to defend the policies in place that have been enacted at the behest of the American people and tested in the courts over the decades."

Jan Schneiderman, president, National Council of Jewish Women -- Dec. 28, 2000

"On the policies we work on and support, his voting record has been an appalling 20 percent for the last legislative session and even lower in previous sessions...  Senator Ashcroft opposes common-sense gun safety measures such as background checks and safety lock requirements.  He has voted against hate crimes legislation, class size reduction and school modernization.  He supports spending federal dollars on religious organizations without requiring them to comply with civil rights and employment laws...  As the nation's top law enforcement officer, the Attorney General hs the duty of enforcing our nation's civil rights laws.  Senator Ashcroft has shown through his words and his votes that he has frequently opposed civil rights."

Bob Chase, president, National Education Association -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Senator Ashcroft's opposition to fundamental values such as family planning place him far outside the mainstream of American values.  His positions are simply too extreme for him to be given this critical power and influence over the lives of American women and their families."

Judith DeSarno, president, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association -- Jan. 9, 2001

"In setting law enforcement priorities for the Department of Justice, would John Ashcroft direct adequate attention to the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act or the Violence Against Women Act?  Could the department under Ashcroft's leadership be counted on even to gather the statistics on hate crimes and violence against women?...  In deciding what cases the department should appeal and on what grounds, in advising the president on nominees for federal court judges and Supreme Court justices, would Ashcroft seek to build or to dismantle civil rights, civil liberties, women's rights and reproductive freedom?...  Based on Ashcroft's record we must regretfully answer all of these questions "no"..."

National Organization for Women -- Jan. 9, 2001

"His views on civil liberties and women's rights run counter to a half century of American legal progress.  His perspective is a reactionary one, which, if put into practice, will literally move America backwards, away from a deepening of rights, and toward a limitation of rights."

Kathy Rodgers, president, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund -- Jan. 2001

"President-elect George W. Bush's nomination of John Ashcroft for Attorney General is an affront to women and people of color who rely on the federal government to promote fairness and equal opportunity.  He is an extremist who has consistently opposed measures to promote civil rights and women's rights in this country."

Judith L. Lichtman, president, National Partnership for Women & Families -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Given Mr. Ashcroft's rigid and doctrinaire opposition to voluntary busing for school desegregation, affirmative action, women's right to choose, gay rights and an array of other issues that are central to the civil rights of Americans, we question whether he can exercise the duties of Attorney General in a fair and judicious manner.

"Mr. Ashcroft's attempts to slough off concerns about his opinions as distortions or misunderstandings of things past is dubious at best in light of his very recent record of derailing Justice Ronnie White's appointment to the federal bench. Justice White was supremely qualified, yet Mr. Ashcroft, in a highly public and personal campaign, distorted Justice White's record."

Hugh B. Price, president, National Urban League -- Jan. 16, 2001

"Senator Ashcroft's record demonstrates not only a lack of commitment, but actual hostility to equal protection of the laws and equal opportunity.  Yet, a demonstrated commitment to these fundamental principles is essential if the American public is to have confidence in an Attorney General's fair and even-handed enforcement of the law."

Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president, National Women's Law Center -- Jan. 9, 2001

"...Senator Ashcroft opposed the appointment of Bill Lann Lee for the position of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights because of Mr. Lee's support for affirmative action.  He also blocked the nominations of other qualified judicial candidates supported by OCA, including APA judges Susan Oki Mooway and Dolly Gee.  Senator Ashcroft also led the campaign to keep Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White, an African American, from a federal judgeship."

Organization of Chinese Americans, Inc. -- Jan. 9, 2001

"John Ashcroft is from the far right fringe of the Republican Party.  His voting record, as analyzed by the National Journal in 1998, was to the right of Senator Jesse Helms.  He is a favorite of groups from the John Birch Society to the Christian Coalition.  Ashcroft's devotion to a right wing legal and policy agenda places him not only outside the mainstream of American politics but outside even the conservative mainstream in his own party.  He has not earned the confidence of Americans that as attorney general he would fairly enforce the nation's laws protecting civil rights, reproductive rights and the environment..."

"In short, John Ashcroft might make an excellent choice to head the Christian Coalition or the NRA, but he is not qualified to lead the U.S. Department of Justice."

Ralph G. Neas, president, People for the American Way -- Jan. 9, 2001

"...Ashcroft's positions on abortion and the right of women to control their own bodies are so far removed from those of most Americans as to raise significant doubts about his fitness to serve as the nation's chief legal officer..."

People for the American Way -- Dec. 29, 2000

"This nomination is an insult to every person who is committed to our nation's promise of equal justice for all."

Ralph G. Neas, president, People for the American Way -- Dec. 22, 2000

Note: PFAW has been among the most active of the organizations opposing confirmation of Ashcroft; it issued a two part report "The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General of the United States  (Part One covered the Senate years in 22 pages and was released on Jan. 4; Part Two covered the Missouri years in 44 pages and was released on Jan. 13).)

"...his slavish devotion to the National Rifle Association -- including recording ads for the NRA endorsing a doomed law that would have granted child molesters and stalkers the right to carry concealed weapons -- is what particularly concerns Physicians for Social Responsibility and its 22,000 members nationwide."

Robert K. Musil, Ph.D., executive director and CEO, Physicians for Social Responsibility -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Planned Parenthood Action Fund gave Ashcroft a 100% anti-choice rating while he was in office.  He is extreme, and his positions are out of line with mainstream America.  He has no business being America's top cop because he will be responsible for protecting the rights he has opposed."

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.

"Ashcroft's extreme ideology and voting record regarding reproductive decisions show a lack of respect for religious freedom, religious diversity and individual conscience.  Throughout his long career, John Ashcroft has failed to demonstrate the fairness and impartiality required of an attorney general."

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Nominating Ashcroft is a shrewd move to appeal to the Republican ultra-conservative wing by putting one of their own in a position to do the most harm to a women's right to choose...  This is a clear attack by Bush on safe, legal abortion services and an opening for a resurgence of abortion clinic violence."

Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, president,  Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice -- Dec. 22, 2000

"In the last election cycle, Sen. Ashcroft ranked in the Senate's top three -- for the amount of money he took from polluters: $633,470 according to a study by the Environmental Working Group.  Can we really expect him to vigorously enforce clean air and water safeguards against the same companies that just gave him thousands of dollars?"

Daniel J. Weiss, political director, Sierra Club -- Jan. 9, 2001

"Senator Ashcroft's views and record on civil rights, workers' rights, women's rights, and environmental protection are radically at odds with the laws that he would be entrusted with enforcing as Attorney General.  And there is no reason to believe that, as Attorney General, Ashcroft would be willing or able to put aside his personal views and vigorously and fairly enforce laws that he adamantly opposes."

Stephen P. Yokich, president, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) -- Jan. 11, 2001

"John Ashcroft's record on consumer issues make him unfit to be America's number one law enforcement official.  As a Senator, Ashcroft demonstrated repeated uncritical acceptance of self-serving corporate agendas that harm the American consumer.  Ten out of ten times in 106th Congress, he voted to let producers of faulty products -- products like Firestone tires, which killed many consumers while the manufacturer covered up the defect --escape full legal responsibility for their actions."

William McNary, president, USAction -- Jan. 9, 2001

"John Ashcroft will place the health and welfare of the NRA and its gun industry allies over that of the American public.  What this means is simple: more assault weapons, less vigorous enforcement of federal gun laws, and a rollback of the Brady law.  The Senate should not approve his nomination."

Kristen Rand, legislative director, Violence Policy Center -- Jan. 4, 2001

During the 2000 elections, the National Rifle Association claimed that if George Bush won the presidency, the NRA would be working out of this office.  Now they've gone one better.  If John Ashcroft becomes attorney general, the NRA will be running the Justice Department."

Joe Sudbay, public policy director, Violence Policy Center -- Jan. 4, 2001

Note: On Jan. 9, VPC released an eight-page report "JOHN ASHCROFT: The Wrong Choice to Enforce America's Gun Laws."

"...Aschroft [sic] is so dangerous to lives and health of American women we cannot afford to be silent.  Ashcroft is simply an unacceptable nominee for Attorney General."

Maureen Britell, executive director, Voters for Choice -- Jan. 9, 2001


Note: The above groups formally opposed the Ashcroft nomination.  Several groups including the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and The Interfaith Alliance (TIA), took the step of expressing "concerns."

TIA press conference.

Naral ran this radio ad in 10 markets Hartford, CT; Philadelphia, PA; Melbourne, FL; Miami, FL; West Palm Beach, FL; Portland, ME; Lansing, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Madison, WI; Milwaukee, WI) starting Jan. 15, 2001.

NARAL-101-60 “Nomination” Revised 2

Consider the qualifications of John Ashcroft, the nominee for Attorney General.

On a woman’s right to choose, he tried to outlaw abortion – even in cases of rape or incest.

In fact, he supports criminalizing abortion.

And prosecuting doctors for performing them.

He even tried to stop nurses from distributing contraceptives to their patients.

So, it’s no surprise he voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.  

This is the actual record of John Ashcroft, George W. Bush’s nominee for Attorney General.

For two decades Ashcroft, has advocated the most extreme positions against a woman’s right to choose.

The United States Attorney General should uphold our freedoms – not undermine our rights.

Call Senator _____ at 202-224-3121 and tell [him/her] to vote against John Ashcroft.

Protect the right to choose. Call Senator ____ now.

[disclaimer:  Paid for by NARAL.]