President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be the new attorney general has denied sympathising with the Ku Klux Klan, in a tough Senate confirmation hearing.
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, 69, also pledged to recuse himself from any investigation into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
A Democratic senator expressed “deep concern” about the Alabama Republican’s nomination.
But Democrats do not have the power in the chamber to block his confirmation.
The attorney general, America’s top prosecutor, leads the US justice department and acts as the main adviser to the president on legal issues.
Beginning two days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr Sessions, 69, testified that allegations he had once supported the KKK were “damnably false”.
“I abhor the Klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology,” he added.
Mr Sessions also acknowledged “the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters”.
Protesters repeatedly disrupted Tuesday’s hearing, including a couple dressed in KKK white robes who chanted: “No Trump, No KKK, No Racist USA.”
“Stop this racist pig from getting into power,” shouted an African-American demonstrator as she was led out of the hearing by police.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein voiced her concern over “fear in this country, particularly among the African-American community”.
She noted Mr Sessions had voted against an amendment affirming that the US would not bar people entering the US on the basis of their religion.
But Mr Sessions said he did not support the “idea that Muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the United States. We have great Muslim citizens.”
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley described the nominee as a “man of honour and integrity”.