Thursday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow discussed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s assertion that what the U.S. Senate needs is 100 more people like former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, the arch-conservative race-baiting homophobe who represented his state for three decades.
Cruz was appearing at right-wing think tank The Heritage Foundation as part of a lecture series named for Helms. He told a story about when Helms first ran for office and received a $5,000 donation from actor John Wayne. Helms called Wayne to thank him, but the actor had no idea who he was at first. Then, it hit him. “Oh, yeah, you’re that guy saying all those crazy things.”
“The willingness to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic,” Cruz said Thursday. “And you know what? It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”
At the outset of her segment, Maddow reminded viewers of the time that Helms, in a fit of pique over losing a legislative spat over the Confederate flag, harassed African-American Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) on of the Senate elevator by singing the Confederate anthem “Dixie” into her face. Moseley-Braun is the only African-American woman to have served in the Senate, and at the time was the Senate’s sole person of color.
The AP quoted Moseley-Braun, who said, “(H)e saw me standing there, and he started to sing, ‘I wish I was in the land of cotton…’ And he looked at Sen. [Orrin] Hatch (R-UT) and said, ‘I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.’”
“And I looked at him and said, ‘Sen. Helms, your singing would make me cry if you sang ‘Rock of Ages,’” Moseley-Braun recounted.
Helms was also the progenitor of the infamous “white hands” ad, a campaign ad aimed at Affirmative Action, in which a narrator intoned “You wanted that job, and you were the best qualified, but they had to give the job to a minority because of a racial quota,” while the camera showed a pair of white hands opening an employment rejection letter.
Jamelle Bouie wrote in The Daily Beast that Helms was “an unreconstructed bigot who devoted his life to the defense of white supremacy and the advancement of far-right politics.”
“Jesse Helms whistling ‘Dixie’ in Carol Moseley-Braun’s face in the Senate elevator?” said Maddow. “We need a hundred more Jesse Helmses? That’s what Ted Cruz thinks would be good for America. What happens next in this situation?”
Watch the video, embedded below via MSNBC: