Haley Barbour: “I Am Not A Racist”; Peter King: “I’m Willing To Be Called A Bigot”
Mississippi governor and possible presidential candidate Haley Barbour praised the anti-integration Citizens Councils of his hometown in a profile in the conservative Weekly Standard.
“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 that’s not how history remembers the White Citizen Council movement.
The White Citizens Council movement was founded in Mississippi in 1954, shortly after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated public schools, and was dedicated to political activities opposing civil rights — notably boycotts of pro-civil rights individuals in Barbour’s hometown, as opposed to Barbour’s recollection of actions against the Klan. It was distinguished from the Klan by the public self-identification of its members, and its image of suits and ties as opposed to white robes and nooses.
In 1998, American Conservative Union head David Keene barred the Citizens Council’s modern incarnation, the Council of Conservative Citizens, from the annual CPAC conference: “we kicked [them] out of CPAC because they are racists.”
Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points memo spoke with Barbour spokesperson Dan Turner, who told him, “You’re trying to paint the governor as a racist,” he said. “And nothing could be further from the truth.”
At the time, David Haberstram wrote of the White Citizens Councils in Commentary, which paints a very different picture of the group than is remembered by Barbour:
“Look,” said Nick Roberts of the Yazoo City Citizens Council, explaining why 51 of 53 Negroes who had signed an integration petition withdrew their names, “if a man works for you, and you believe in something, and that man is working against it and undermining it, why you don’t want him working for you-of course you don’t.”
In Yazoo City, in August 1955, the Council members fired signers of the integration petition, or prevailed upon other white employers to get them fired. But the WCC continues to deny that it uses economic force: all the Council did in Yazoo City was to provide information (a full-page ad in the local weekly listing the “offenders”); spontaneous public feeling did the rest.
Being called a bigot doesn’t seem to bother Congressman Peter King, who has promised to investigate Muslim groups when Republicans take over Congress and he heads the House Homeland Security Committee. King seemed to embrace the term talking to FOX News’ Jamie Colby.
COLBY: Talk to me about this investigation that you want to undertake about radicalization. Not everybody is supportive, in fact many have said that you’re looking towards the Muslim community — even though after 9/11 you said that not all Muslims are responsible for what happened on 9/11 — they say you’re a bigot.
KING: Yeah, it’s totally untrue. That’s political correct nonsense. But I’m willing to take that hit if I have to. The fact is that nobody had a closer relationship with the Muslim community than I did before September 11. Since then, I’ve been disappointed that a number of their leaders did not cooperate with law enforcement. There are actual cases in this country where the Imams direct their members not to cooperate with law enforcement on very serious investigations.
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