Video: Haley Barbour under fire

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    >> talking about haley and he usually gets it right politically. you know about this white council story and say this will be really bad news for the mississippi governor .

    >> this is a profile on haley in the weekly standard .

    >> a friendly profile.

    >> a friendly profile basically, in which he talks about the history of civil rights in mississippi . this is something haley barbour , a very good politician usually, this is something he always gets wrong. what he did was praised organizations called the white citizens councils .

    >> what were they?

    >> well, they were what they sound like. they weren't the klu klux clan. if you had asked my family, they might as well have been the klu klux clan. they were dedicated to the preservation of the southern way of life , which was segregation.

    >> does it say that in their charter?

    >> they say that in their charter.

    >> that was no secret.

    >> why would haley --

    >> one thing they did was apply economic pressure to african-americans who would dear to register to vote or to organize or to be uppity in a way that was inconvenient for the white citizens council .

    >> they fired anybody who signed a petition to --

    >> what was -- andrea , you know haley . he's a smart guy . what's he thinking?

    >> i think this is the way he remembers his childhood. it's a gloss according to the records and make it difficult for him to be a national candidate. i knew him a long time and knew him in the reagan years and considered him one of the political figures --

    >> it's a very long piece.

    >> the general the sis sis, integration, civil rights , it wasn't that bad. everything worked out. mississippi , late '50s, early '60s, does the name good man scherner --

    >> i went to high school with him.

    >> i know that. that's just a ridiculous an insulting thing to say. insults the memory of a lot of --

    >> do you find haley to have a blind spot ?

    >> oh, yeah.

    >> is this a one time mistake. you mentioned before he usually gets it wrong.

    >> this is the second time. what was it, the first eruption was when he was once again on that subject. is vocational rehabilitation of events was -- well, it was no big deal . i went to integrated schools. he went to segregated schools until he got to ole miss . i went to integrated college. it was knotnot a big deal . talk to one of the handful of black students who was at ole miss . remember, ole miss was only integrated by virtue of federal marshals , who had to escort the first student onto the campus. there was a riot. somebody was killed and black students then -- of course, he wouldn't have noticed black students then because white students wouldn't talk to them. a black student would come into class and the white students would all turn their backs and refuse to have anything to do with them. for him, it was no big deal .

    >> what's the impack politically and i've always said and talked about it on thiss bad enough the presumption that will be against a southern governor, like haley barbour , from his generation, if he runs against barack obama in 2012 . god, the national press turned bill clinton and hillary clinton into racists. remember south carolina ? i don't know how, if this keeps churning, i don't know how he's a viable candidate in '12. there are a lot of things --

    >> i don't know about that. i haven't read the piece. i don't know what he said. i trust gene's reading of it and trust andrea 's assessment of it. on the other hand, for haley barbour going forward as potential national candidate, we do live in a country with cultural and sociological amny sh -- amnesia. the vast majority of people who will vote, it will be a paragraph in the history book in mississippi in the 1950s . it's unfortunate.

    >> haley did say, he said, i just don't remember it as being that bad, obviously, very offensive to --

    >> because he was a white guy.

    >> a white guy.

    >> note to haley . it was really bad.

    >> but i don't know if that kind of statement is going to be a deal killer for haley barbour .

    >> in the late 1960s --

    >> let me say about haley barbour , he has just come through an election cycle where haley barbour , not the head of the rnc, raised the money and helped all the candidates. the republican governors association that he leads is what became the de facto republican national committee . he just had a terrific election cycle.

    >> we still have 10% unemployment in this country in two years, if we do, mississippi and his thoughts about it won't matter.

    >> we have an african- american president and it will be interesting to see how he deals with this whether he becomes a candidate or not, i'd like to see how the deals with this. here's how it's playing, "new york times," civil rights days not so bad recalls the mississippi governor . the second paragraph down in a profile published monday in the weekly standard , barbour talked about the white citizens council of this 1960s some historians said were organized to oppose racial integration , barbour , a teenager and young adult in the 1960s said in his town they were a positive forced praising them as organization of town leaders who reverend to tolerate the racist attitudes of the klu klux clan. in yazou city said anybody who started a chapter of the klan would be run out of town, barbour said. talk to me, eugene.

    >> i'm speechless. if haley barbour wants to be a national candidate, re-litigating the civil rights movement is not the way to do that. it really isn't. if he wants to turn a race in 2012 into a giant history lesson about civil rights , that's fine, but he's not going to be be -- that's not going to be a positive thing.

    >> it seems on the face of this, he's putting himself in a difficult situation here and he has to back off very quickly. he's now in the position, if he wants to stay consistent with this article, this interview, of defending something called white citizens council . i lived in mississippi from '69 to '74, as a young kid. i started school there, went to an integrated school, probably about 50-50. i think we were the first year, '69, the first year mississippi schools were integrated. to be honest with you because i was too young, i have no idea what this is. i would guess most americans don't know what white citizens councils were but i know you don't want to defend them. it doesn't sound good in mississippi .

    >> you should put it into context as to where we stand today. looking back is not a good thing.

    >> he has to back off.

    >> what actually happened in yazou city. it was free of a lot of the kind of violent encounters that occurred elsewhere in mississippi and elsewhere in the south. when the schools were integrated, what happened, the whites formed a segregation academy , a private academy, where they all sent their kids leaving the public schools to the black kids . people will want to know, haley barbour , when you had kids, where did you send them to school? to public school ? my understanding is he didn't, he sent them to the academy. that sort of question --

    >> that is one thing i do remember, these little academies, seriously, would just crop up in the middle of farm fields. build a house and where a lot of kids would go.

    >> you can fast forward from yazou city in the '50s to boston massachusetts in the mid- 1970s at the height of the bussing crisis, when white children were withdrawn from public schools and sent to parochial schools and newly formed academies. if we're going to have a conversation about this, that is not necessarily negative.

    >> north and south .

    >> let's put it on the table. put suburban schools and urban schools on the table in this country. education today,ion wh iotoday, i don't know what haley barbour 's experience has been as a public official , has he exhibited any of these?

    >> not at all.

    >> certainly not this. you can argue with his record on political or ideological ground.

    >> the term " white citizens council " --

    >> boston is kind of a special case in terms of school de segregation.

    >> i know there's been books about it. i don't think it is. unfortunately, it occurs in too many cities in this country except for places like new york, the ultimate democracy. i think a lot of suburban urban school systems are segregated.

    >> we heard you and agree with you. if this was you and you were thinking of running for office, what would you do?

    >> nobody has to tell haley barbour what to do. because he's haley barbour , he will back off this statement. because he is as smart as he is, he knows this morning he has put himself in a position where he has to defend something called white citizens council . that won't win the philadelphia suburbs if he runs for president and not win over suburban moms and swing elections in 2012 . haley barbour , judging by people very close to him, he wants to run for president. he wants to be president andrea , if that's the case, he has to back off this very quickly, isn't he?

    >> that would be the politically advantageous thing to do. he has to now visit an issue i thought he had put behind him because he has a very good record as a governor, a national leader. after katrina, his record was stellar compared to what happened in louisiana. he has a real track record.

    >> it suggests a larger blind spot and the larger blind spot it suggests is that haley would even say this. i'm not knocking him, not knocking him for having a blind spot . we all have our own blind spots . this needs to be a teachable moment for haley barbour . i'm not knocking him, not knocking him for having a blind spot , we all do, but we need to restrictions those blind spots and work to overcome them. i would just suggest, gene, if haley barbour is saying that something called "the white citizens council " was not bad and it was a quote positive force , he has a blind spot because of where he was born and when he was born there and he needs to speak to that blind spot and henized to convince the american people that he's going to work to be more sensitive to these issues in the future.

    >> absolutely. he already talks about who would elect a guy like me with a southern accent and that kind of corn-pone thing.

    >> you like that, don't you? it gets you up on your feet.

    >> i personally would knock him for this particular blind spot , this is a bad blind spot .

    >> you understand what i'm saying, right?

    >> i understand.

    >> i want to make sure. there will be presumptions from idiots and blogs somehow i am saying it's not bad. what i am saying is we all have blind spots . i will speak slowly so the guys can put their chitos down and quit smacking and hear. we all have blind spots and all have our own prejudices.

    >> we do.

    >> and we all have a responsibility to work through those prejudices and become open minded in these areas. haley has worn of those. he has a responsibility because what he said is offensive and he needs to work through it.

    >> he needs to get beyond it and realize his experience of civil rights if indeed this was his experience, number one, his memory is selective in any event, but number two, it certainly was not the experience of any african-american in the south period. not close.

    >> just generally, haley is as smart as it gets politically, usually, but how could anybody say about a civil rights era , one of the toughest eras of our time, the grimmest eras of our time, "i just don't remember it being that bad."

    >> i think the key is him saying that from the perspective of, guess what, a white guy.

    >> but he should be aware of it.

    >> and not far from here, the mall, a monument to dr. king has been built. this has been litigated. i don't think he wants to re-litigate the civil rights movement , not a good idea.

    >> you've known haley since the reagan years, everybody around washington likes the guy, brilliant politically. what does he do moving forward?

    >> i think he tries to fix it. puts out a statement and says perhaps i have a faulty memory about my childhood. my childhood was more benign.

    >> yeah.

    >> i think he will.

    >> this story is not done.

updated 12/21/2010 11:01:50 AM ET 2010-12-21T16:01:50

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential Republican presidential candidate, rebutted critics Monday who said he is sugar-coating his state's history of racial integration.

At issue is the January 1970 integration of public schools in Barbour's home town of Yazoo City, when he was 20. Historical accounts confirm the schools integrated peacefully, as Barbour stated in a recent profile in the Weekly Standard magazine. Some liberal groups, however, said his comments skimmed over the segregationist role played by so-called Citizens Councils in the state.

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Asked by the magazine why Yazoo City's public school integration avoided the violence seen in other towns, Barbour said: "Because the business community wouldn't stand for it. 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."

Barbour's contrast to Obama

A January 1970 Time magazine article about Yazoo City said, "local white leaders began more than a month ago to prepare their city for the shock of final desegregation. A loosely knit committee of prominent whites met with the city's whites, urging them to support the public schools rather than abandon them."

Several liberal bloggers Monday said Barbour left an inaccurate impression of Mississippi's local Citizens Councils, which sought to thwart integration in many areas. However, the white supremacist groups had their chief influence in the 1950s and early 1960s, years before the Yazoo City schools integration.

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In the Weekly Standard profile, Barbour said he remembered Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Yazoo City in 1962, when he would have been 12 years old. He said he did not recall King's words.

"The truth is, we couldn't hear very well," Barbour said. "We were sort of out there on the periphery. We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King."

A quick data base search found records of King speaking in Yazoo City in 1966, when Barbour would have been 16, but not in 1962.

Calls to Barbour's press office were not immediately returned. But his spokesman Dan Turner told other news outlets that the governor is not racist and he was commenting on specific events in Yazoo City, not on the broader Citizens Councils movement.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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