Senate GOP Silences Elizabeth Warren for Reading Coretta Scott King Letter

'She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.'

Senate Republicans voted to formally silence Elizabeth Warren for impugning her peer, Jeff Sessions, by reading a 1986 letter by late civil rights icon Coretta Scott King condemning the Alabama senator’s record on civil rights.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell interrupted Warren, who spoke against Sessions’s nomination for attorney general, and invoked an obscure rule of decorum called Rule XIX, which prohibits any senator from ascribing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator” during debate.

“The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama, as warned by the chair,” McConnell said, objecting to King’s line, directly quoted by Warren, that Sessions “has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”

Warren protested, and said she was “surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate.” Forty-nine Republican senators successfully voted to silence her under Rule XIX.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” McConnell said of Warren. His remarks became a rallying cry for Warren’s supporters, who used the hashtag #LetLizSpeak to express their solidarity with the Massachusetts Democrat.

After the Republicans’ vote, Warren finished reading King’s letter outside the Senate in a Facebook Live video, viewed more than 5 million times in less than 24 hours. “Tonight, I wanted to read that letter, and Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Republicans came to the floor to shut me down for reading that letter,” she said.

Wednesday morning, two male Democratic senators, Tom Udall and Sherrod Brown, read King’s letter in its entirety on the Senate floor, without interruption or incident.