December 11, 2002


"The words were terrible and I regret that," Mr. Lott told the conservative radio and television commentator Sean Hannity in an interview broadcast simultaneously on Mr. Hannity's radio program and the Fox cable-television news channel. "It was certainly not intended to endorse his segregationist policies that he might have been advocating, or was advocating, 54 years ago."

Rather, Mr. Lott said, he meant to hail Mr. Thurmond's record on issues like national defense, balancing the budget and economic development rather than the views on race Mr. Thurmond held when he ran for president on a Dixiecrat platform opposing "social intermingling of the races."

"Obviously, I'm sorry for my words," Mr. Lott said. "They were poorly chosen and insensitive, and I regret the way that they have been interpreted."

Mr. Lott, recalling phrasing used by Jesse L. Jackson in 1984 to address concerns that he is anti-Semitic, said his error was a "mistake of the head, not of the heart, because I don't accept those policies of the past at all."

I don't know. If he'd said this on Saturday it would have killed the story. Now it seems, well, unconvincing and inadequate.