Press Release

Betty Ford Center, Majority of Congressional Black Caucus, Civil Rights and Public Health Groups All Urge Senate to Re-Think John Walters as Drug Czar

Bush Nominee Faces Growing Opposition, Confirmation Hearing Wednesday, October 10th <br>

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 x 1383 or Shayna Samuels at 212-547-6916
President Bush's nominee for drug czar, John Walters, continues to come under attack from a variety of camps as he heads into his Senate confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Wednesday, October 10th.

In the latest blows to Bush's embattled nominee, the Betty Ford Center yesterday issued a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee stating: "Mr. Walters may not have the confidence in the treatment and prevention strategies that we believe are necessary for the creation and implementation of a balanced and thoughtful approach to U.S. drug policy. Now, more than ever, with increased public criticism of U.S. drug policies that rely heavily on interdiction and criminal justice solutions to the drug problem, we need a director with an unshakable conviction in strategies to reduce the demand for drugs in this country."

Also yesterday, twenty-one African American Members of Congress (over half of the Congressional Black Caucus) have signed a statement urging the Senate to reject Walters. Signatories include Representative John Conyers - Congress's senior African American Member and the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has re-authorization authority over the drug czar's office.

The statement from the CBC declares that Walters' "views on race and crime make him unfit for a position that requires sensitivity to racial fairness" and that Walters "is both woefully ill informed on the facts of the day and insensitive to the needs of the African American community."

These two letters are only the latest in a series of broad-based criticisms of John Walters:

  • In September, a coalition of civil rights and public health groups issued a scathing analysis of his views on race, crime and drug treatment. The report from the Coalition for Compassionate Leadership on Drug Policy is available on their website. Members of the Coalition include the ACLU and NAACP. The Coalition, however, neither endorses nor opposes nominees for public office.

  • A week later, a coalition of conservative groups released a letter urging Senators to scrutinize Walters' views on privacy and civil liberties. The letter was signed by over sixty groups, including the American Conservative Union, Free Congress Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, and the African American Republican Leadership Council. The letter is available at

  • In mid-September, Representatives John Conyers (Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus), and Bobby Scott (Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Crime), sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "serious concerns about Mr. John Walters's fitness to serve as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy."

  • Organizations continue to sign on to a letter asking Senators to vote against Walters. Signatories include AIDS Action, Latino Voters League, National Black Police Association, and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

  • Over 20 newspapers and magazines have editorialized against John Walters, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, National Review and Houston Chronicle.

  • On NBC's Meet the Press in April, Barry McCaffrey said Mr. Walters is "focused too much on interdiction" and "needs to educate himself on prevention and treatment." McCaffrey also complained recently that Mr. Walters has voiced a concern "that there is too much treatment capacity in the United States, which I found shocking."
"At a time when our nation most needs leaders who can bring the American people together, John Walters is too divisive, too insensitive, and too extreme," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director for the Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation. "Walters not only opposes reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, but denies that they even exist. His lack of commitment to a drug policy based on science and public health approach is out of step with the nation."

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