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Politics Nation
updated 3/21/2013 5:16:16 PM ET 2013-03-21T21:16:16

Republican senators wasted no time in voicing their opposition to President Obama's pick to head the Labor Department, as Rush Limbaugh invoked comparisons to the KKK.

As if like clockwork, the right-wing has launched into attacks against President Obama’s latest nominee, Justice Department Lawyer Tom Perez. Perez has been tapped to replace Hilda Solis as head of the Labor Department.

Rush Limbaugh led the charge barely an hour after Perez’s nomination Monday, comparing the new pick to lead the Labor Department to the recently deceased Venezuelan socialist Hugo Chavez and even the Ku Klux Klan.

“This guy’s name is Tom Perez and he may as well be Hugo Chavez,” he said. “And that’s not an exaggeration.”

He continued, “Let’s replace Obama with George W. Bush and the Black Panthers with the Ku Klux Klan. Now I want you to try to imagine Bush’s head of the civil rights division not prosecuting Klanners when they engage in voter intimidation. And then, after not prosecuting Klanners for that, then imagine what would happen is Bush turned around and nominated the Grand Kleagle Of The Ku Klux Klan to a cabinet position where he would be deciding on discrimination lawsuits. That’s exactly what’s happened here.”

Limbaugh is referring to Perez’s role in the Justice Department’s decision not to pursue prosecution of the New Black Panthers accused of voter intimidation in Philadelphia during the 2008 election. A Bush appointee who worked alongside Perez on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights denounced allegations that the decision was racially or politically motivated. ”We have no direct evidence that [the New Black Panther activists] actually intimidated anybody, stopped them from voting,” Abigail Thernstrom said, adding that she thought the evidence in the case  was “extremely weak.”

Louisiana Senator David Vitter kept his rhetoric less incendiary, but echoed the same criticisms as Limbaugh in his vow to block Perez from the post, while also ripping Perez for his work to fight voter suppression.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions called Obama’s choice of Perez a “unfortunate and a needlessly divisive nomination,” in a statement for history with CASA de Maryland, calling the group ”a fringe advocacy group,” and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley opposed the nomination days before it was officially announced.

Perez held a comparable position to that of Secretary of Labor at the state level when he was Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor. He’s also been a stalwart supporter of voting rights during his days at the Justice Department, and has already drawn praise from labor groups.

Video: Limbaugh: ‘Perez may as well be Hugo Chavez’

  1. Closed captioning of: Limbaugh: ‘Perez may as well be Hugo Chavez’

    >>> today president obama made a big announcement. nominating justice department lawyer tom perez to be the next labor secretary.

    >> like so many americans, tom knows what it's like to climb the ladder of opportunity. his story reminds us of this country's promise. that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is, you can make it if you try. and tom's made protecting that promise for everybody the cause of his life.

    >> i was at the white house today for the big announcement, which sparked ugly reactions from the right.

    >> this guy's name is tom perez , he may as well be hugo chavez . that is not an exaggeration. imagine what would happen if bush turned around and nominated the grand kliegle of the ku klux klan to a cabinet position where he would be deciding on discrimination lawsuits. that is exactly what's happened here.

    >> that's incredibly offensive. and now we're hearing gop senators vowing to block the perez nomination. why? because perez is a champion for voting and minority rights ? it was his office that fought to block vote are i.d. in texas. it was his office that fought to have voter i.d. blocked in south carolina . it was his office that sued nerve joe arpaio for discriminating against latinos. he's a fighter for civil rights and as lake secretary, he'll stand up for the rights of the working class . thanks for much whatting. i'm al sharpton . "hardball" starts right now.

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