Senate Republican leader Trent Lott is apologizing for a remark some called racist.
Lott said he misspoke when he said the nation would have been better off if Strom Thurmond had won the presidency on a segregationist ticket in 1948. He said he was not trying to suggest that he embraces "the discarded policies of the past.''
The Mississippi Republican made his comment last week at a party celebrating Thurmond's 100th birthday.
Thurmond, a staunch segregationist, ran for president against the civil rights policies of President Truman. He captured 39 Southern electoral votes, including those of Mississippi.
Later, elected to the Senate, Thurmond changed his position, hiring black staffers and helping promote blacks to federal judgeships.