Two protesters dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes were ejected from the first of the Senate confirmation hearings for Donald Trump's Cabinet picks Tuesday.
The protesters, who were joined by several members of the anti-war organization CodePink, who also staged a protest, wore giant foam fingers that read “KKK” and “Go, Jeffie boy!” as Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions entered the chamber for his confirmation hearing.
Sessions, Trump's pick to be the new attorney general, has faced criticism for his views on race. A new report from the NAACP outlined a “voluminous record” of racial discrimination that should disqualify him from holding the attorney general office. Sessions, however, has denied sympathizing with the KKK.
During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the 69-year-old politician said that allegations he had once supported the KKK were "damnably false."
"I abhor the Klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology," he added.
Back in 1986, Sessions was accused of making racist comments while serving as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. He called a Black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and the NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”
Sessions is a very close ally of Trump, as he was the first senator to endorse his presidential bid. According to media reports, he is one of the key architects of Trump’s immigration, counter-terrorism and trade policies.
The role of Sessions will be vital for the new president, as he opposes any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and is an enthusiastic backer of Trump's promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
Immigration will again be in the spotlight later Tuesday when Trump's pick for secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, also faces his confirmation hearing.
The week of hearings come amid controversy over concerns that Trump's Cabinet picks have not gone through a satisfactory vetting and ethics clearance process.