April 12th, 2010
12:07 PM ET
12 years ago

DNC: Barbour 'defended the indefensible'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/11/art.barbouriso0411.cnn.jpg caption=" Gov. Haley Barbour's comments 'portrayed a Republican mindset that is not only out of touch with this century, but the last one as well,' a spokesman for the DNC said Sunday."]
Washington (CNN) – With the nation’s first African-American president occupying the Oval Office, the South’s Confederate history is ensnaring a second Republican governor in as many weeks in a controversy over how the nation ought to remember the institution of slavery.

Trying to defend a fellow Southern Republican governor, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour drew fire from the Democratic National Committee, which issued a statement Sunday after an interview with Barbour aired on CNN’s State of the Union.

Earlier: Concern of slavery omission 'doesn't amount to diddly,' says Barbour

“I don’t know what you would say about slavery,” Barbour told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, “but anybody who thinks that slavery is a bad thing – I think goes without saying.”

Barbour was explaining his belief that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had not made a mistake in omitting any mention of slavery from a recent proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month in his state.

Responding to allegations that McDonnell’s omission was insensitive, Barbour said, “To me, it's a sort of feeling that it's a nit. That it is not significant, that it's not a – it's trying to make a big deal out of something doesn't amount to diddly.”

The DNC slammed Barbour for the remarks.

"Governor Barbour defended the indefensible this morning and in doing so portrayed a Republican mindset that is not only out of touch with this century, but the last one as well,” DNC national press secretary Hari Sevugan said in a written statement. “To say that the systematic condemnation of millions to bondage and generation upon generation to servitude is ‘not significant,’ or that the tearing apart of families and the selling of human beings as cattle ‘doesn't amount to diddly’ is outrageous for any public official to say, let alone a man Republicans have placed in a position of leadership.”

Sevugan added, “These comments are unacceptable and should be universally condemned in the strongest terms. A failure to do so will send a strong message to all Americans that Republicans endorse Governor Barbour's sentiments and are content not only to be left behind in another century, but that they deserve to be a small regional party in the permanent minority “

Last week, McDonnell announced that he was amending his proclamation to refer to slavery and call it “an evil and inhumane practice.”

Related: McDonnell apologizes for initial proclamation

"The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed," McDonnell said last week.

Filed under: DNC • GOP • Haley Barbour • State of the Union
soundoff (310 Responses)
  1. Gary

    Living in Virginia myself, McDonnell makes me glad he can serve only one term in office. If elected he said he was going to cancel the President's stimulus funds (hasn't happened yet); he would sell off the state's liquor stores for $500 million (stores bring in $500 mil per year- he hasn't opened bids yet...); he would prohibit the people of Virginia from taking part in the new health care plan (has he bothered to ask folks- especially in the Virginia southwest corner- if they don't want health care to be available for their kids?). McDonnell didn't apologize for the slavery gaff UNTIL it was pointed out as a political mistake, THEN he backtracked. McDonnell is gone in 3 more years, thank goodness.

    April 12, 2010 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  2. Bobby

    The Democrtats supported slavery of blacks and a republican freed the slaves.

    Now the Deocrats support slavery of all people to support their agenda.


    April 12, 2010 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  3. Lolita Hansen

    Much of the political battle in the 1850s focused on the expansion of slavery into the newly created territories.All of the organized territories were likely to become free-soil states, which increased the Southern movement toward secession. Both North and South assumed that if slavery could not expand it would wither and die.

    Southern fears of losing control of the federal government to antislavery forces, and Northern resentment of the influence that the Slave Power already wielded in government, brought the crisis to a head in the late 1850s. Sectional disagreements over the morality of slavery, the scope of democracy and the economic merits of free labor versus slave plantations caused the Whig and "Know-Nothing" parties to collapse, and new ones to arise (the Free Soil Party in 1848, the Republicans in 1854, the Constitutional Union in 1860). In 1860, the last remaining national political party, the Democratic Party, split along sectional lines.

    Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said that s"lavery was the chief cause of secession" in his Cornerstone Speech shortly before the war. After Confederate defeat, Stephens became one of the most ardent defenders of the Lost Cause. There was a striking contrast between Stephens' post-war states' rights assertion that slavery did not cause secession and his PRE-WAR Cornerstone Speech. Similarly, Confederate President Jefferson Davis also REVERSED HIS ORIGINAL POSITION that the central cause of the war was the issue of slavery, arguing after the war that states' rights was its principal cause.

    While Southerners often used states' rights arguments to defend slavery, sometimes roles were reversed, as when Southerners demanded national laws to defend their interests with the Gag Rule and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. On these issues, Northerners wanted to defend their states' rights.

    Almost all the inter-regional crises involved slavery, starting with debates on the three-fifths clause and a twenty-year extension of the African slave trade in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The 1793 invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney increased by fiftyfold the quantity of cotton that could be processed in a day and greatly increased the demand for slave labor in the South. There was controversy over adding the slave state of Missouri to the Union that led to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Nullification Crisis over the Tariff of 1828 (although the tariff was low after 1846, and even the tariff issue was related to slavery); the gag rule that prevented discussion in Congress of petitions for ending slavery from 1835–1844, the acquisition of Texas as a slave state in 1845 and Manifest Destiny as an argument for gaining new territories where slavery would become an issue after the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), which resulted in the Compromise of 1850.

    The Wilmot Proviso was an attempt by Northern politicians to exclude slavery from the territories conquered from Mexico. The extremely popular antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe greatly increased Northern opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

    April 12, 2010 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  4. mike

    oh look another old white man that thinks the southern boys won
    the war well lets wake up an smell the coffee you have nothing to be
    proud of by thinking that killing your own people was justified its
    created a social and economic problem in this country that still
    haunts us today I think that every southern boy in this country should
    pay back for all the wrong they created with slavery but now they
    want to make money on it you are hillbillies and if it wasn't for the
    north in progressing this country forward we still be picking cotton

    April 12, 2010 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  5. jim

    Civil War? is Gov Barbour talikng about the War of Yankee Agression?

    April 12, 2010 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  6. mj

    As a liberal Va. Democrat, this is one of few things I agree with our Gov. McDonnell on and the DNC should think twice about turning this into a political issue or they may regret it in Nov.
    Slavery is not mentioned in Confederate history month for the same reason it was not mentioned that the Emancipation Proclamation freed only slaves in the Confederate states NOT in Union slave states or that Sherman burned our cities and destroyed everything we had.
    There was evil in the Union, including slavery which did not end in the Union States at the conclusion of the Civil War. We are proud of our ancestors who fought for their freedoms just like all other warriors. Slavery was an abomination on all of America, not just the South. The North had women and children working in their factories for penneys a day and when one died they just replaced them with another, no big deal to the factory owners.

    April 12, 2010 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  7. dblzap

    Ha Ha HA!!! This is great, between the Raciest comments and the tea party it seems the GOP is in full self destruct mode. After 30 years of conservative crap and 8 years of utter incompetence the GOP has finally met their Waterloo



    April 12, 2010 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  8. Ryan in Virginia

    As a Virginian, I am sick and tired of the seditious pride and "The South Will Rise Again" mentality I see as so pervasive in the southern states and in many rural areas in the north. In the age of "let's see who can be the most patriotic," I find it highly ironic that some governers, other political leaders, and some ordinary citizens alike find it necessary to point to and espouse pride in a time when a group of states claimed that America wasn't good enough and tried to break the nation apart.

    Yes, countless Southern men fought and died for what they believed in, but let's keep in mind that what they believed in was slavery and anti-american sentiment. I know there will be people responding to this saying that the Confederate States were American in and of their own right, but I wholely reject that sentiment. Seceeding from the United States of America is LITERALLY Anti-American, and the Confederate Flag is a symbol of that Anti-American cause.

    Confederate History Month? No. There should be a CIVIL WAR History month, yes, but it should be observing truth: that the southern states tried to tear this country apart, separated families, and employed slavery – violently defending the act, in fact. A Civil War History Month should serve as a reminder of what has passed and a warning against making the same mistakes again, not flaunting pride in a seditious time in our history.

    April 12, 2010 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  9. tim

    Reids comment a couple of months ago was just as offensive. It is not ideoligical, but personal flaws

    April 12, 2010 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  10. sonny

    What do you expect from the Governor of Missisipi he wishes he can own me as a slave, does not think i am a whole human being and probably wishes he can still lynch me under a tree

    April 12, 2010 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  11. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    As a middle aged white man, I am ashamed that there are so many ignorant people like him still around. The fact that he is an elected official says a lot about the racism that still exists in America!

    April 12, 2010 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  12. Duck Fallas

    Poor Haley. He eats too much because he's a racist pig, and is a racist pig because he eats too much. It's a vicious cycle. Oink.

    April 12, 2010 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  13. Doctor Leon

    This is a truly imbecilic situation. Slavery is an unfortunate reality of US history. PAST HISTORY! What justifies having it rubbed in our faces every time a public official opens his or her mouth. I suppose the next incensed group to criticize Gov. Bob McDonnell will be the Jews who are beside themselves because he didn't also reference the holocaust. After all, when someone refers to slavery, shouldn't it be considered politically incorrect and abhorrent to omit the holocost. Wait! Lets go back a little further. Shouldn't our public officials also declare their disfavor with the enslavement of the Jews in ancient Egypt? See what I mean? This is all just too stupid. Adults being stupid! We have bigger problems to deal with in this country than semantics and political rhetoric about mindsets. Our time could be better spent teaching our children how to hide from priests.

    April 12, 2010 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  14. AJP

    You have to view this statement for what it is and where it comes from.

    The Republican party is esentially a political party consisting mainly of white Americans.

    Very few minorities are in the Republicn party which is why you have to take their remarks in context.

    Do they portary America for how we want to be viewed by other nations, hopefully they don't.

    April 12, 2010 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  15. Clint

    Barbour & McDonnell is what happens when KKK members breed. No doubt they were raised on a steady diet of "The South Will Rise Again" and "The Negro Race was happy when they were slaves". You can dress trash up, elect them Governors, but their true colors always bleed through.

    April 12, 2010 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  16. Elana

    i am literally speechless. this has to be a joke.

    April 12, 2010 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  17. Tman

    CNN please don't misquote the man because that hurts the cause and makes african americans who are really concerned seem nit picky.

    “but anybody who thinks that slavery is a bad thing – I think goes without saying.”

    This is NOT what he said.

    April 12, 2010 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  18. Andy

    Another grand standing statement from the DNC-and the statement does not mean DIDDYLY.Hey dems,do what you are good at and go sign up some more welfare queens,you will need the votes.47% pay no taxes and they are all dems-need I say more?

    April 12, 2010 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  19. dwb

    Hmmm...Considering that Lincoln was GOP, I don't think that this story has any merit. Slavery is over and done with. NOBODY alive today (with a brain), thinks that it was morally ok or defensible.

    April 12, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  20. RWM

    Truly astounding. The same Democrat party that nurtured and defended slavery for over a hundred years is now sanctimoniously admonishing a Republican, whose party had fought slavery throughout this nation's history, because the man said something stupid. The Democrat successors of slaveholders should shut the hell up and sit down. They have no moral high ground.

    April 12, 2010 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  21. AP in Illinois

    Whitewashing history doesn't change the truth. It only empowers the ignorant.

    The truth is that anyone who minimizes slavery or tries to celebrate the Confederacy without acknowledging that both were a stain on American History aren't really celebrating "Confederate History Month.'

    It still amazes me that people who committed treasonous acts, insurrection and practiced the abominable practice of slavery are now being celebrated! And their supporters don't care...that is just sad.

    April 12, 2010 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  22. Steve, New York City

    While there are a few "good" ones among prominent Southern Republicans (Lindsay Graham, a few others), WHAT ON EARTH is going on with the rest of them:
    * Joe Wilson yelling "you lie" (do you REALLY think he would have treated Clinton or Carter with such outrageous disrespect)?
    * There's some movement to replace Ulysseus S. Grant's image on a $50 bill (coming from a Southerner) – really??
    * A Confederacy memorial month in Virginia?
    Rather than learning about science, math, foreign languages or some other useful pursuit, Governor Barbour and his ilk seemed to have watched too many episodes of Hee Haw!

    April 12, 2010 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  23. Cj

    What is driving me nuts about this issue is the Democrats are trying to remake history by pointing thier finger at Republicans over slavery when it was a southern Democratic movement that lead to the Civil War with the first Republican president Lincoln leading the north. The Democrats of the time referred to Pres. Lincoln as a "Black Republican," and reviled him in no uncertain terms eventually assinating him. Additionally, the continuation of slavery was also primarily a Democratic party issue that was opposed by the Federalist and became the foundation of the creation of the Republican party. If we're going to have some appologies issued over the Civil War, slavery and the general loss of life in that was the DNC would be a good place for the appologies to start. While thiey'reat it they can also appologies about Southern Democratic conduct through out the civil rights movement.

    April 12, 2010 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  24. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Another ignorant GOP schmuck who hasn't got a clue....

    Does anyone else see the RACIST tendencies of the GOPs and tea bags??

    April 12, 2010 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  25. The Man

    This slavery comment reveals the true colors and real culture of the Republican party.
    I will bet that there will be no defendable comment from Sarah Palin.

    April 12, 2010 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
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