OPINION | Paul Ryan betrays the GOP leaders who once stood up against hate

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He needs to answer — and soon — why Trump's defense of racists, Nazis and murderers is acceptable

In December 2002 at a 100th birthday celebration of Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) praised Thurmond's 1948 candidacy for president which was a Dixiecrat platform opposing "social intermingling of races" saying:

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

The outcry, castigations, shock and denouncements were immediate and came from both the Left and the Right. President Bush denounced the statement and his brother then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush said Lott needed to step down as Senate majority leader. Conservative Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard sharply rebuked Lott, as did Colin Powell and Jesse Jackson.

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