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Stephanopoulos Tells Black Leaders GOP Threatens Affirmative Action

September 22, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Black lawmakers hoping to preserve affirmative actions programs shouldn’t forget they have an ally in President Clinton, White House senior adviser George Stephanopoulos says.

``Bill Clinton is unambiguously for affirmative action,″ Stephanopoulos told a Congressional Black Caucus forum Thursday. ``All I can say to you is, you have an ally in the president. Please help us.″

In remarks at the caucus’ 25th annual legislative conference, Stephanopoulos said only U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Arthur Fletcher supports affirmative action among the contenders for the GOP presidential nomination.

Stephanopoulos met with black leaders several times before Clinton issued his defense of affirmative action this year. He said Thursday that critics had lied and spread myths about the programs.

``They forget when it’s done right, it does not lead to quotas,″ he said. ``It’s about putting people into a qualified pool of people and making sure their background is taken into account.″

Republicans say affirmative action too often becomes reverse discrimination that blocks deserving individuals from advancement or companies from a fair chance at contracts.

Black lawmakers gave Clinton credit for taking an unpopular stand.

``I don’t think the president spoke after putting his finger in the wind because the wind was blowing in another direction, an unfavorable direction,″ said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.

``Anybody who heard the president’s speech knows that at least one branch of government stands for racial equality and equal rights,″ said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the congressional delegate from the District of Columbia. She is a Democrat.

Stephanopoulos’ remarks were only the latest warnings the conference heard about attacks on affirmative action.

At a caucus meeting broadcast live on Black Entertainment Television, lawmakers told a crowd made up largely of high school students that racism is threatening gains from the last 30 years.

They blamed the media for not showing that racism still exists and that affirmative action is still necessary.

Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., the caucus chairman, said the Supreme Court no longer can be counted on to protect blacks.

In the past session, the high court struck down electoral redistricting plans that benefited many black lawmakers and raised the standards for the awarding of federal contracts based on race.

``We’re seeing that race is being used on every level,″ said Payne. ``We see it in the courts _ racism in the courts. In the Supreme Court, they were formally our allies. Now, they are our enemies.″

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