Barbour addresses furor over civil rights comments
December 21st, 2010
12:57 PM ET
12 years ago

Barbour addresses furor over civil rights comments

Washington (CNN) - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour responded Tuesday to an avalanche of criticism over remarks he made to The Weekly Standard about the civil rights movement.

In a statement issued through his office, Barbour stressed that the civil rights era in Mississippi was "a difficult and painful era." He also withdrew accolades for a local branch of the all-white, pro-segregation Citizens Councils, which he had credited with preventing racial strife in his hometown of Yazoo City.

Liberal websites spent much of Monday hammering Barbour for what seemed to be a warm and fuzzy recollection the civil rights era in his hometown.

"I just don't remember it as being that bad," he told the magazine in a lengthy profile, claiming that he attended a peaceful, mixed-race speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. while in high school.

Barbour, who is actively considering a presidential bid in 2012, suggested that the Citizens Council in Yazoo City was not, in his memory, a racist organization.

"You heard of the Citizens Councils?," Barbour told the magazine. "Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."

Barbour's spokesman was interviewed by Talking Points Memo on Monday and insisted that Barbour is not racist, but the governor's office remained otherwise silent on the matter until sending out the statement Tuesday.

"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," Barbour said.

"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."

Filed under: 2012 • Haley Barbour
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Sypnicki

    Why do you even print what a backward bozo from the poorest state in the United States has to say...he is soooo unimportant.

    December 21, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. one voice

    This CLOWN is a FLAMING RACIST. "Difficult and Painful era" for his white hooded henchman? His running mate for his Presidentual bid will be the likes of Rand Paul and our regression back to the 1800's. SCARY

    December 21, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. Gamechanger

    As with GOP leaders, if you allow them to speak long enough on any topic after time they will disclose to the world what they truly are. The just can't hide their true nature forever – although some are able to do so long enough to get elected...

    Sit back and observe the amount of time it will take for a party that ran on 'fiscal responsibility for Washington' to abandon any pretext of it and get right to the business of legislating their morals – whether or not the rest of the country shares them. If you think any of them make it until January, I have a bridge to nowhere in Alaska you might be interested in purchasing...

    December 21, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. Mike In MO

    Fail. And please take those marbles out of your mouth when you speak...

    December 21, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. MPeters

    So it's the Klan is bad, but the equally as indefensible all-white racist group, is ok? Clear as mud. Got it.

    December 21, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Jim

    Keep backpedaling Hayley. It won't help.

    December 21, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. Tony in New York

    Some things never change.

    December 21, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Randy

    I am not suprised by Barbours remarks, oft times when it's not happening to you or someone you love ,people tend to think that everything is just a o.k. As a son of the south, tell Mr. Barbour that life in the south during the 60's was HELL!!!!!!

    December 21, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. Alistair

    Another Macaca moment from a GOPer.

    December 21, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. thomas

    Is Yahoo City on the Red Neck Riviera ?

    December 21, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Part of the problem with being a White Man in your late 50s or early 60s (and I fall in that category) is we are supposed to carry the blame for all the unrest of the Civil Rights era. I don't know about the rest of you bloggers, but I can guarantee (having seen the immigration records for all of my relatives) that none of us lived in this country before the 1880s, and we were up north when we arrived.

    Does that mean we had no racists in our family? Hell, no – of course we did! Does that mean that I must suffer for the sins of my "fathers"? Not a chance in Hell! My attitudes to race changed in Junior High when I was exposed to more Black people. It was also while in Junior High that Martin Luther King was assassinated. Were we scared that there would be riots? Yes. Did they occur where we lived? No. Why? Because the city leaders met with the leaders of the Black community and made sure things were diffused before they were ignited.

    Eventually through College and service in the Military my feelings and opinions towards other races matured. In my personal belief, every individual must be judged on their own merits. Every individual must be allowed to succeed of fail based on the effort they are willing to invest in themselves. Candidates for jobs and schools need to be judged on a race-blind basis so the best qualified individuals may be selected. Unfortunately, the flaw in my philosophy is that historically (and presently), people of color can start out at a greater disadvantage than White people. Why? Because there are still people who have lower expectations of what Blacks and Latinos are capable of accomplishing. Also, let's look at reality – who do Black children see as "Role Models" these days? LeBron James, Michael Vick, Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Kanye West, etc. ignoring business and political leaders who are trying to set an example to follow. Of course, who can blame them when they see all you have to do is be able to play football or basketball, or get a record contract to make millions. Not putting in long hours and pushing your self to the breaking point to make money over a long term. As long as they see the local drug dealers driving new Lexus, and their own fathers keeping used Subarus together with chewing gum and bailing wire, they will be drawn to the Lexus and the Thug lifestyle.

    If any of the above sounds racist to you. please take off the rose-colored glasses you are looking at the world through and join people like me who are trying to make a real change one kid at a time, instead of churning out idea after idea without getting into the trenches with the rest of us!

    December 21, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. Byebye

    He's toast.

    December 21, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  13. rob

    Sounds like a reasonable explanation to me. Just because "Liberal Websites" have been harping on it doesn't mean the guy is a racist but since he is a Republican and a possible opponent of President Obama in 2012, CNN and other "Liberal" media outlets will continue to push the story. He should not appologize.

    I hope he runs because I'd vote for him . He has executive experience running a state and its budgets and unlike some Republican hopefulls he is an articulate spokesman for commen sense positions on the economy etc. I think he would do well so look for many negative stories about him in the future..

    December 21, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  14. DAW, NC

    Wow what a memory or should I say attempt to rewrite history. It is amazing to even attempt to justify his thinking, next he will say he even had some African American friends, (which under further investigation we will probably find out did menial work for his family for below minimum wage.

    December 21, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. proud dem in nc

    Who does this (KKK) pig think he's kidding. Just another Rethuglican bigot. Talk about damage control. He thinks the American people are stupid. Shut up , fatman.

    December 21, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  16. Ronnie Rayz

    Ya'll come down here, we love that deeversity thang, long as none of them uppity folk are about town....

    December 21, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  17. DanteX

    Typical piece of White GARBAGE.

    Conservatives like Haley Barbour never seem "to remember things being that bad" because they were not the ones being beaten or discriminated against or murdered.

    So please Haley Barbour – Take yourself and your "praise" for the murderous and racist "Citizen Councils" back down to Mississippi and die.

    December 21, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. DanteX

    Conservatives like Haley Barbour never seem "to remember things being that bad" because they were not the ones being beaten or discriminated against or murdered.

    So please Haley Barbour – Take yourself and your "praise" for the murderous and racist "Citizen Councils" back down to Mississippi and die.

    December 21, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  19. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    If a white boy in Mississippi didn't think it was that bad . . .oh, never mind. Citizen councils always kept the minorities in line with lynchings and murders, but they were not as bad as the KKK. Maybe the KKK was too much competition for them.

    December 21, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. froggy

    don't crawfish now!!! too late to flip-flop...

    December 21, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  21. Rob R

    I swear, in this day and age, can anyone honestly see Barbour as president? I mean, I don't think there is a politican on the planet that doesn't scream Dukes of Hazzard more than Barbour, and that is NOT what we need in this country.

    December 21, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Ken in NC

    The article says he also withdrew accolades for a local branch of the all-white, pro-segregation Citizens Councils, which he had credited with preventing racial strife in his hometown of Yazoo City. Basically what that amounts to is taking the stripes off a zebra. It may look different then but it is still a zebra. Barbour also claims the town rejected the Ku Klux Klan. Well they had to so as to preventing another chapter of the Klan from being established there and taking over the Klan the "Good Ole Boys" had already gotten up and running. Mr Barbour is sttill of the mind set that all people except him are stupid. I would give the man credit for being smart considering his position within the Republican party except that after the waay those "G"rumpy "O"le "P"eople rolled over for 2 bit half term twit from Alaska.

    December 21, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  23. Robert

    Interesting how the statements bactracking what someone says are always released by their office, and not vocalized by those who issue the controversial statements to begin with!

    December 21, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. Carol

    Another picture perfect example of back tracking............

    December 21, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. Dave

    In other words, Barbour is exposing himself as a dumb Republican redneck. Folks, this isn't news...

    December 21, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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