Prior to Doug Jones being sworn in, had the GOP controlled an Alabama Senate seat for 30 years, as President Trump said?
When comments by Steve Bannon from a forthcoming book surfaced on Jan. 3, it created a media storm — and a rift between President Donald Trump and Bannon, his former chief strategist.
Among the blockbuster quotes that Bannon gave journalist Michael Wolff referred to a meeting that included Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, according to news reports of an excerpt. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s—, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon said, according to the book.
Hours after news of the book’s contents broke on Jan. 3, 2018, the president released a statement critical of Bannon. Here’s a portion:
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans.”
It wasn’t the most noteworthy part of Trump’s statement, but when he said that that Bannon that the Alabama seat had been held “for more than thirty years by Republicans,” he was off by almost a decade.
The seat in question is the one in which Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore weeks earlier. It was the subject of a special election because its previous elected occupant, Jeff Sessions, left to become Trump’s attorney general. (By coincidence, Jones was being sworn in as the state’s new senator on the same day that the news of Wolff’s book was dominating political discussion.)
Seeing Trump’s statement, several political observers, including the Washington Post’s Paul Kane and Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, noted that the last Democrat to occupy the seat had been Sessions’ predecessor, Howell Heflin.
Heflin retired in 1996, making the actual period of Republican control 21 years, not 30.
The late Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Ala.
As for Alabama’s other Senate seat, it has been held by Richard Shelby since his first election victory in 1986. Shelby was elected as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican Party shortly after the GOP took control of both chambers of Congress in November 1994.
The White House did not respond to an inquiry for this article.
One last bit of trivia: Earlier in his career, Jones worked as an aide for Heflin, who died in 2005. On election night, Jones called Heflin his “mentor.”
Trump said the Senate seat won by Jones had been “held for more than thirty years by Republicans.” It hasn’t been that long. It’s been 21 years since Democrat Howell Heflin retired, paving the way for his successor, Sessions, and Sessions’ elected successor, Jones. We rate the statement False.