In the initial fallout over Gov. Haley Barbour’s (R-MS) praise of the segregationist Citizens Council groups from the Civil Rights movement era, one conservative media outlet seems to have really bungled their attempts to back up the potential White House candidate: Fox Nation.
In a profile in the Weekly Standard, Barbour had recalled the group — which was founded to oppose school desegregation, and launched economic boycotts to cut off employment and business for African-Americans who sought out civil rights (including a famous incident in Barbour’s hometown) — in positive terms:
“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.”
Fox News came to the rescue, with a posting on their unabashedly right-wing Fox Nation website:
As you can see, the headline reads: “Haley Barbour Fends off Left-Wing Racial Smears with Ease,” with an unrelated photo of Barbour smiling and laughing at some public event.
Interestingly, the post in no way documents anything Barbour might have been actually doing in order to fend off criticism. Indeed, it looks like Team Barbour’s only response on Monday was a less than successful interview between myself and Barbour’s gubernatorial spokesman. Instead, it only reads:
Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, is increasingly mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012.
The Weekly Standard profiles him this week, and liberal bloggers are spotlighting one section where Barbour discusses segregation and racism in Mississippi in his childhood days. You can sense where this is going, right?
It then links to a National Review post by Jim Geraghty, who was bemoaning the knee-jerk accusations of racism against a Southern Republican. “His sin is that, decades later, he remembers his hometown through rose-colored glasses?” Geraghty wrote. “Don’t most people do that?”
By the next day, of course, things had changed. Geraghty himself put up a second post, in which he fully stood by his earlier defense that Barbour should not be immediately smeared by liberals as a racist — but also admitting that Barbour had a pattern of remarks that seemed oblivious to the reality of what was going on around him during his pleasant upbringing.
And the biggest shoe of all dropped — far from “fending off” any lefty smears “with ease,” Barbour himself released a mea culpa statement:
“When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns’ integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn’t tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the ‘Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time.”
I left messages with Fox News, asking how exactly the Fox Nation site works, which have not been returned as of this writing.
(Via Adam Serwer.)