Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, who heads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, defended his record yesterday, saying that he was "shocked" by charges last week from organizations representing blacks, women and the handicapped that he has abandoned enforcement of civil rights laws.
"Let's not throw around baseless and unsupported charges that the department has stopped enforcing the law," Reynolds said in a hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights. "The accusation that the Civil Rights Division has abandoned enforcement of the civil rights laws is patently absurd.
"The civil rights laws of this country are not one-dimensional. They protect all persons in this country: black and white, male and female, Hispanic and Asian . . . . The record of our enforcement activities in every area of responsibility is strong."
Officials of the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella group of 165 organizations representing blacks, women, Hispanics, the elderly and labor, told the subcommittee Friday that because of the positions taken by Reynolds on civil rights issues they would prefer that the Justice Department not intervene in their cases.
Subcommittee Chairman Don Edwards (D-Calif.) warned Reynolds yesterday that the criticism came from the entire civil rights community. "It's really not good enough for you to say all of the witnesses are wrong . . . . These are the protected classes," Edwards said.
Reynolds angered civil rights advocates last month when he charged that affirmative action has created a "racial spoils system" in this country.
But Edwards told Reynolds, "It seems to me that you and I are beneficiaries of the biggest racial spoils system in the world . . . . You and I would have been awfully stupid not to have made it in this country."