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Barbour Speaks At Freedom Riders Event To Little Fanfare

May 23, 2011

Yesterday, a week long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders kicked off in Jackson. Had he been a presidential candidate, national- and potentially international- news services would have zoned in on Haley Barbour’s comments at the ceremonies.

Instead, Barbour is simply a governor in his last term in office. You have to dig hard to find stories on Barbour’s comments yesterday where he apologized to the group on behalf of the state of Mississippi for their treatment: “We apologize to you for the mistreatment in 1961 and we appreciate this chance for atonement and reconciliation,” Barbour said according to a WLBT story.

On Twitter, Barbour said, “Offered apologies on behalf of the state to #FreedomRiders for their treatment when they arrived in ’61. MS has come far since those days.”

This media reaction (of lack there of) has been quite drastic compared to the past six months where every one of Barbour’s perceived hits and misses on race issues was captured and analyzed to the furthest extent possible.

If Barbour was a presidential candidate today, I am sure many would have said he was just doing this for political expediency. He obviously isn’t. Barbour’s comments reminded me of a speech he made in Philadelphia in 2004 on the 40th anniversary of the murder of three civil rights workers in Neshoba county. In that speech he compared those murders to the fanatical Islamic terrorism of today.

Like yesterday’s event, that speech was also made with little fanfare. And my guess is Barbour would have said the same thing whether the whole world was paying attention or no one was in the audience.

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