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December 21, 2010

BARBOUR BACKPEDALS.... Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's (R) comments to the Weekly Standard weren't exactly subtle. Among other things, Barbour said he doesn't recall segregated Mississippi in the midst of the civil rights revolution as being "that bad," and recalls attending a speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1962, though he didn't pay much attention to King's remarks.

Perhaps most notably, Barbour praised the white supremacist Citizens Council in his hometown of Yazoo City for keeping the community calm during the civil rights era.

This hasn't exactly gone over well, and more than a few political observers -- from the left and the right -- have said Barbour's presidential ambitions have taken a serious hit.

Hoping to clean up the mess he created, Barbour issued a statement today, backpedaling a bit.

"When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns' integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn't tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the 'Citizens Council,' is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time."

There are a few angles to this. The first is that these remarks are wholly at odds with what he told the Weekly Standard, which, as a prominent Republican magazine, doesn't have any reason to misquote him or twist his words out of context.

The second is that Barbour's chief spokesperson, hoping to defend his boss, took a slightly different line than the governor did yesterday. This makes today's statement look more like spin and crisis management than a sincere clarification.

And finally, let's also not forget that the published remarks became so instantly inflammatory this week precisely because of Barbour's atrocious record on racial issues. Today's statement more or less makes the right points, but it's not as if the governor has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to diversity and respect for minority groups.

As for the larger context, Markos Moulitsas noted earlier that the fact that Barbour backpedaled quickly "shows that race remains the ONE thing that'll get a Republican in trouble with traditional media." I think that's entirely right, and it's the only reason the governor couldn't let this go without a response.

Steve Benen 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (10)

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As soon as Rush Limbaugh blasts him for his attempt at softening his racist remarks, Barbour will backpedal on his backpedal and issue a heartfelt personal apology to the Citizen's Council.

Posted by: Winkandanod on December 21, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Barbour is a toad. Or worse. I'm reminded of the comment about Kurt Waldheim-- he doesn't need a backbone because he has an exoskeleton.

Posted by: MattF on December 21, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised he back-pedaled. Being attack for racially-insensitive remarks typically helps Republicans, but Barbour's about face will give the criticisms some credibility.

Posted by: Holmes on December 21, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'll take issue with Kos' comment. I didn't see the Media calling out repeated Tea Party people for overt racism that makes Barbour's comment look tame.

Posted by: T2 on December 21, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Of COURSE Barbour doesn't remember segregation being 'all that bad.' He's white.

Posted by: JEA on December 21, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Limbaugh, TWICE this week he managed to slip in a comment about Donovan McNabb into an otherwise irrelevant topic. Getting fired by MNF must have really rankled. . .

Posted by: DAY on December 21, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

I'd still like his lie about attending the MLK speech exposed. I am personally offended when Dr. King is used by Republicans to defend racists and racism. Really ticks me off.

Posted by: JD on December 21, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't it be "Yahoo" city?

Posted by: josephus on December 21, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

I'd also take issue with Kos's line that race is an uncrossable line for the MSM. Maybe it's true for segregation-era issues, but today plenty of racist statements about Latinos and Arabs go by without protest. Also, plenty of comments along the lines of "young bucks buying T-bone steaks with their food stamps" get by without protest.

Guest poster Cynic at TNC's blog at The Atlantic has a searing post about the history of the Citizens' Council of Yazoo City.

Posted by: meander on December 21, 2010 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure Barbour is in trouble. He said what he meant the first time and shored up his base. He backpedalled and pacified the 'moderates'. He's now free to campaign on destroying the government by lowering taxes, shrinking government (which means gutting the safety net), expanding military spending, and the rest of the GOP agenda.

Posted by: Seould on December 21, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK



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