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Last Word On Barbour

December 20, 2010

While the likes of Daily Kos, Salon, Think Progress, etc. have had a field day regarding a Haley Barbour article in The Weekly Standard, we began to hear some response this afternoon.

*** First, Barbour spokesman Dan Turner spoke with the liberal blog Talking Points Memo about the comments, particularly the Citizens Council; which would have made for a pretty lively television interview based on the article. Here are statements from Turner:

“Gov. Barbour did not comment on the Citizens Council movement’s history. He commented on the business community in Yazoo City, Mississippi.”

“I’m aware of what the governor said in this interview. I’m not gonna get into the business of trying to twist what the governor said, or to manipulate it.”

“Your questions are very angular, let’s say that. You have a very specific point that you’re trying to drive at, and you’re trying to paint the governor as a racist. And nothing could be further from the truth.”

“It was an organization in Yazoo City that was, you know, a group of the town leaders and business people. And they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. And that doesn’t sound like a racist to me. Does it to you?”

“Tell me what in Gov. Barbour’s past gives any indication of any racist leanings, and I’ll be glad to address the question. Otherwise, it’s not a legitimate question. There’s nothing in his past that shows that. If you pick out a sentence or a paragraph out of a fairly long article and harp on it, you can manipulate it. And that sounds to me like what you’re trying to do.”

*** Salon spoke with Andrew Ferguson, the author of the TWS piece, and here is what he said:

“I don’t think that he meant segregation wasn’t that bad. I think he meant that it didn’t roil the town the way some people might think it did. I get the sense that [Barbour] himself was just kind of oblivious. He was a fun loving football player, probably chasing skirts and all that.”

“No one I talked to (in Yazoo City) would defend segregation or anything like that — it just didn’t impinge on their consciousness the way it does ours in retrospect.”

Ferguson says that Barbour raised this point during a conversation about the history of Yazoo City in the civil rights era. Barbour told Ferguson that one of his aides was doing research (for reasons that are not clear) and had dug up an article from a local newspaper that described the local Citizens’ Council this way. That’s where Barbour picked up that talking point.

*** We got a couple conservative responses this afternoon, one from Jim Geraghty at The Campaign Spot and one from Ace of Spades. One pundit who I thought was fair in his reporting today was Ben Smith with Politico. He quoted myself and the blog on a couple occasions today (here and here).

Update:
*** Haley Barbour released this statement today: “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.”

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