Barbour addresses furor over civil rights comments
December 21st, 2010
12:57 PM ET
10 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. Joe

    Jubilation T. Cornpone strikes again!

    December 21, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  2. Democrats Class Warfare - Destroying the economy and country

    And so begins.. the looney leftists continuous campaign to smear everybody as a racist. Twist and pervert every statement made by their opponents in an endless campaign to smear and silence them, just like the Tea Party. I think the American people have caught onto this BS and disregard it. Of course, the leftist media in this country continues the crusade every day.

    December 21, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. T'sah from Virginia

    I don't care how smart Barbour is – he looks like a typical southern who was very aware of the times he grew up in and was clearly for it. He lived a WHITE separate life, which is the reason why he says "I just don't remember it as being that bad,"

    Come on now – he will NEVER be a President because he does now represent even HALF of the American people!!

    December 21, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. AEK

    Intelligent people everywhere...please do not believe anything this racist pig says. He is just another Republican trying to get people o to forget his record now that he aspires to national office!

    December 21, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. NVa Native

    Haley Barbour's White Citizens Council rejected the Klan because the Klan was in direct competition with the WCC – but both where agressively supportting rascism and racial segregation by using rutheless intimidation and manipulation.
    You might say the WCC was a more kinder and gentler form of hatred and biggotry.

    December 21, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. Fair_is-Fair

    Funny! As Jeff Foxworthy might kow you're a racist when you have to defend that you're NOT a racist. I don't kow the heart of this man, but I do know that his perspective of the "difficult and painful era" was likely skewed because he was not of the class of people being discriminated against. It's always better looking down from the top.

    December 21, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  7. Phil in KC

    See Haley. See Haley back-pedal as fast as he can. Pedal, Haley, pedal.

    December 21, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. sonny chapman

    I'm from that era of the Deep South. There weren't many local white heroes. Haley is stretching it when he tries to claim that he wore a cape. Change was fought tooth & nail by the white majority like Haley Barbour.

    December 21, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    You can now scratch the "potential 2012 presidential candidate" whenever referring to this guy. Citizens Councils warned of a "takeover by the negroes"...and guess what has the GOP and conservatives and bible-thumping "krischun nashun" teatards screaming about illegal immigration and fabricating vast imaginary conspiracies that result in massive minority voter fraud etc: that's right, studies show there is an imminent and unavoidable demographic shift taking place that will take away white majority in the coming couple of decades. Citizens Councils and their ilk are TERRIFIED AND INFURIATED by fact, one of them just this week called for a boycott of the upcoming "Thor" movie because they cast a black dude as one of the Norse gods. Ridiculous.

    Sooo, "takeover by the negroes" eh? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why "take this country back" became such a prominent slogan for the angriest and most fearful of Amurikans after President Darky was elected by an epic groundswell of minority and youth voters, now does it? Why they questioned his birth and citizenship status...why they propagated rumors that he was a scary muslim, not a wholesome krischun...why they and many in the "news" media prefer to call him "Mr. Obama" instead of "President"...why they flipped their everloving noodles about illegal immigration ALL THE SUDDEN despite the problems existing and being ignored for DECADES under a mainly GOP-controlled Congress...why accusations of voter fraud flew unabated despite a lack of any evidence whatsoever...why the #1 goal of the GOP and their constituents for the past 2 years has been to destroy Obama and oppose and obstruct everything and anything he tries to do no matter the amount of misinformation and lying required to achieve it, etc.

    December 21, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I would not be at all surprised if this yahoo was a proud member of the KKK. He is certainly getting mighty comfortable taking off the hood, so to speak, and letting his true bigotted view points come shining through.

    Don't back-peddle now Bubba, say what you mean, and mean what you say.

    December 21, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Jersey George

    Racism still alive and well in Mississippi and from its governor no less! No surprise here. The South is still reeling from the Civil War.

    December 21, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. 16yrNavy

    Either these elected officials are stupid or think the American people are stupid. In days of digital media and 24 hour new you can't get away with anything. Stop the Lies!

    December 21, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    Oh, and don't forget secession threats, widespread re-activiation of Civil War rhetoric regarding states rights and honoring confederates (see, Gov. McDonell as an example), wanting to rid the country of federal social assistance programs and pretending that they mostly go to help "dope smoking Oprah watchers" (despite 61% of people on social assistance being white), the voodoo witch doctor sign, the sign with Obama in "white face" as the Joker, the lady running around the Teatard rallyk with a MONKEY PUPPET...the purposefully tossed talking point grenades with obvious racist overtones used to bait people into calling the statement racist JUST SO THEY CAN CLAIM THEY ARE A "RACE CARD MARTYR." I wouldn't be suprised if that is, in fact, what Barbour was attempting all along...martyrdom to "political correctness and the race card." Shenanigans. Anyone who doesn't see how all of it...ALL OF IT...fits together is deluding themselves and the history least those that escape the TX Board of Edumacation...will call you blind fools.

    December 21, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  14. Ted

    True colors come out from this southerner. Probably a McClownell supporter against Obama. Think about it America. Barbour is a possible GOP prez candidate. Problem is that his big fat mouth speaks what is on his mind.

    December 21, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. Jay

    Man he doesn't fit the closet racist southern white trash stereotype at all.

    Barbour, Gingrich, Palin, and other POTUS wannabees will run pretending like they'll get somewhere. Don't even bother fools. (Though I would love nothing more than Obama to crush the lunatic right in Barbour/Palin/Gingrich) Man that will sting – just go ask McCrazy.

    December 21, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. GI Joe

    Old, fat, white , southern -– CAN'T UN-RING A BELL , FATSO.

    December 21, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. B

    This over stuffed bigot has a long history of Mindless Racism . If this disgusting example of our Worst experiences can actually run for our nations Presidency then we are in a very Bad place people!

    He, and others in the South are now on a campaign to REWRITE American History. The big problem is that too many Americans now don’t even know it them selves, so these idiots don’t tend to be -called out- on their lies.

    December 21, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. KLK

    Haley brings much SHAME to my state. If he did get the GOP presidential nomination, he'd only get 30% or less of the vote. Put a fork in him. He's done. Put some butter on him. He's toast.

    December 21, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  19. rdepontb

    You have the ugly habits of being insensitive-I'll give you the benefit of not saying your actions and words both are racist and stupid and ugly in and of themselves-and of talking out both sides of your mouth. That might have worked in high school, it may even have worked when you were up against an overwhelmed Michael Steele. It does not work with every-day Americans. Apologizing after I gleefully punch my neighbor in the crotch and sticking a pin in his eye would not be of much help in my neck of the woods; I'd be run out, for good reason. Of course, if I did something like that, I'd have the good sense to stay out of the picture, maybe leave town and my political party. Ahem.

    December 21, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. Phoenix86

    Much ado about nothing. The Obama administration and the liberal fringe are the true racists of today.

    December 21, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. ART

    He doesn't remember it being that bad,well of course it wasn't bad for you, you wern't the one being treated like a second class i mean a no class citizen.Don't forget to fly that rebel flag over your state capital sir, you know you want to

    December 21, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Haley Barbour, Sen. Sessions and a few more of those fascists republicans are a bunch of KKK members and I don't know how they got elected to office. Haley Barbour needs a Netflix subsription and rent Mississippi Burning or A Time To Kill.

    December 21, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. GI Joe

    Conjures up memories of another wretched southern governor – George Wallace anyone?

    December 21, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. jillib

    Wow, up until 20 minutes ago, if your only news source was CNN, you wouldn't have heard the Barbour revelation. It's shameful that something this illuminating wasn't covered – like the majority of the other media outlets – until now. Why the slow response and the sloppy "journalism"?

    As for the content...Barbour is a repeat offender. This is not a "misstep" and he did not "misspeak" – he and his true character was exposed, again. HIs lackidasical approach to the civil rights movement in the south – "it wasn't really that bad" – is appauling. His whitewash of the function of the Citizens Council is pathetic. How stupid is he – and how stupid does the think Americans are. There are actual copies of publications from the citizens council easily available via the internet.

    I have assume he was blowing the dog whistle loud and clear to rallly a base of support – at least that's an option in considering why barbour thinks his comments were smart – although in this day and time I find it surprising that barbour would actually believe that being involved with the citizens council and segregationist organizations would be a winning association among the majority of the American population. My only other option is to assume that barbour is an ignorant bigot – unfamiliar with history in reality – he prefers a whitewashed fraudlent version of this nations history. Come to think of it, either assumption is equally pathetic and viable.

    A very clear picture of mr barbour indeed. I was truly hoping that those of his ilk had become extinct in this country. Although there is hope. Given time, death will come before their realization of how absolutely backwards and wrong they are. And to those I say, good riddance.

    December 21, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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."
    And you'd probably add that you didn't have a problem with "uppity Ns" Come on Barbour, the Citizens Council did NOT represent ALL of the citizens did it? They were just the Local Klan making sure things were done THEIR way, or not at all.
    Nice try Bubba.

    December 21, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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