Steve Kornacki: Why Haley Barbour Whitewashes History





[Steve Kornacki is Salon's news editor.]

Who'd have figured that the first major blow to Haley Barbour's 2012 White House hopes would be delivered by ... the Weekly Standard? Bill Kristol's magazine is out today with a profile of the Mississippi governor, written by Andrew Ferguson, in which Barbour downplays the upheaval of the civil rights movement and characterizes the notorious White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s as a force for good.

Asked about coming of age in Yazoo City, Miss., during the civil rights"revolution," Barbour, who was 16 when three civil rights workers were murdered in the state in the summer of 1964, tells Ferguson,"I just don't remember it as being that bad." He goes on to talk of standing"at the periphery" when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in his hometown (but not really paying attention to what was said because he was too busy looking at girls) and to salute the Citizens Council for (supposedly) ensuring the peaceful integration of Yazoo City's schools -- something that was achieved 15 years after Brown v. Board of Education. Barbour tells Ferguson:

“You heard of the Citizens Councils? 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.”


But it wasn't -- and it isn't -- just Northerners who saw a connection between the Citizens Councils and the Klan....

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