President Obama strongly denounced the Senate on Wednesday for failing to confirm a top nominee to the Justice Department.

In a statement released by the White House, Obama said Debo Adegbile's defeat is a "travesty" and is based on unfair attacks.

"The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant," Obama said. "Mr. Adegbile’s qualifications are impeccable."

Obama said the main attack used against Adegbile -- Republicans denounced his work on behalf of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal -- "runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice."

Republicans were united in opposition to Adegbile, and seven Democrats wound up voting 'no' on a key test vote Wednesday. An eighth, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), also voted no, but for procedural reasons.

"As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules," Obama said. "And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him."

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where Adegbile worked on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, echoed Obama, saying Adegbile was subject to "an unfair smear campaign."

"Adegbile was attacked because the NAACP Legal Defense Fund became counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal during his tenure here," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of NAACP LDF. "The NAACP Legal Defense Fund's involvement in Mumia Abu-Jamal's case reflects its institutional commitment to ensuring that the criminal justice system is administered fairly and in compliance with the U.S. Constitution for all Americans, no matter how controversial."