Haley Barbour Finds Himself in (Another) Civil Rights Mess

2012 GOP contender has problematic political roots, writes Steve Kornacki
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Dec 21, 2010 11:16 AM CST
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association,addresses an election night gathering hosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee, Nov. 2, 2010.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(Newser) – Haley Barbour still hasn’t said whether he’ll run for president, but he’s already stirring up controversy thanks to a lengthy Weekly Standard profile in which he recalls his hometown of Yazoo City, Miss., fondly, and doesn’t remember the struggle for civil rights as being “that bad"—this despite murders in his state. Barbour also raised eyebrows with his discussion of White Citizens’ Councils as not like the KKK but simply "an organization of town leaders." Writing for Salon, Steve Kornacki points out that an Arkansas newspaper noted that Citizens’ Councils “created a climate in which racial murder could be tolerated still longer in Mississippi."

This isn't the first time Barbour "has tried to whitewash civil rights history," writes Kornacki, highlighting comments like Barbour's claim that the integration of the University of Mississippi in 1962, which spurred riots that killed two people, was "a very pleasant experience." The fact that he hails from a segregated town isn't the issue, maintains Kornacki—who reminds us that Bill Clinton was a product of segregation—but Barbour "has never seemed to come to terms with what segregation meant to African-Americans throughout the South—and what the legacy of segregation continues to mean now." Click here for more of Kornacki's thoughts.

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