During Jeff Sessions’s confirmation hearing for Attorney General, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, asked Sessions about his endorsement from the extremist anti-choice group, Operation Rescue.
In November 2016, Troy Newman, the longtime head of Operation Rescue, endorsed Sessions, saying he “could not be happier” about the appointment. “I have worked on projects with Sen. Sessions in the past and know him to be an experienced prosecutor and a principled pro-life advocate with a reputation for honesty,” Newman added. It was a ringing endorsement from a group that actively engages in the violent harassment of abortion doctors.
Blumenthal asked Sessions directly about the endorsement. “Operation Rescue endorsed you,” Blumenthal said. “Operation Rescue has advocated ‘execution’ of abortion providers,” Blumenthal added before he pulled out a poster that group circulated in the late 90s and early 2000s. The poster features a photograph of Dr. George Tiller underneath the words “Wanted.” Tiller was murdered in 2009 during a Sunday morning service at his Kansas church. “After his murder, Operation Rescue said that his alleged murderer should be treated as a political prisoner,” Blumenthal explained.
Tiller’s murderer, Scott Roeder, had ties to Operation Rescue. Roeder had posted on the group’s website, comparing Tiller and abortion with Nazi concentration camps, writing that doctor needed to “be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgment upon our nation.” Investigators also found the phone number of Operation Rescue’s senior vice president Cheryl Sullenger in Tiller’s car (Sullenger had previously been convicted of attempting to bomb a California abortion clinic in 1987). Operation Rescue denied any involvement with Tiller’s murder or connection to Roeder. Despite their denial, the group is known for its extremist tactics and Sullenger admitted to providing Roeder with information on Tiller.
Today, Blumenthal asked Sessions to disavow Operation Rescue’s endorsement. Sessions replied that he, “Disavowed any activity like that... a group that would even suggest that is unacceptable.” Sessions’s answer split the proverbial baby—he disavowed the murder of abortion doctors but seemed to stop short of completely disavowing Operation Rescue and Troy Newman. Sessions did, however, promise to enforce current laws that outlaw “disrupting a doctor’s practice,” before reiterating his well-known anti-choice stance.