WASHINGTON (AP) — Opponents to GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions' appointment as attorney general are calling him extremist, anti-immigration and insensitive to civil rights.

But they're refusing to call him racist.

Civil rights groups purposefully are staying away from leveling that loaded term at Sessions. The Alabama senator was rejected for a federal judgeship in the 1980s amid contested accusations he called a black attorney "boy" and the NAACP and ACLU "un-American."

The logic behind this strategy is to get greater scrutiny paid to Sessions' actions and his record, and reduce the chances that senators who consider Sessions a friend could use allegations of racism against him as a distraction.

Republicans have expressed strong support for Sessions and are expected to secure more than enough votes needed to confirm him as attorney general.