Bush Criticizes Lott Comments

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President Bush Thursday denounced controversial remarks made by Senate GOP leader Trent Lott, made at a birthday party for Sen. Strom Thurmond on Dec. 5. But Bush refused to call for Lott to step down from his leadership position.

"Any suggestion that the segregation of the past was acceptable is offensive and wrong. Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country," said President Bush, speaking to a group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Lott has since apologized twice for what he called insensitive remarks.

Now some of Lott's critics say his punishment for the verbal gaffe should be losing Judge Charles Pickering as a nominee for a federal appeals court. Democrats are calling on President Bush to refuse to make a second attempt to put Pickering on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Lott is a friend of Pickering.

Cong. Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi's second Congressional district, is among the Democrats who say Lott's misstep makes a Pickering re-nomination to the Republican-controlled Senate look even worse.

There was no immediate comment on the suggestion from Lott or the White House.