In her column today in the Jones County newspaper, The Chronicle, Rebekah Staples defends her former, and current, boss, Haley Barbour, from the accusations of race-baiting in the campaign against Senator Chris McDaniel.
She praises the former governor, on whose staff she once served and for whom she still works, for his outreach campaign to minorities during his term as RNC chair in the mid-1990s. But her main evidence of Haley’s racial progressivism was his 2011 embrace of the Freedom Riders on the 50th anniversary of their famous ride across the South. Many riders, like Congressman John Lewis, spent time in Parchman Prison for their efforts breaking down the barriers of racial segregation. Governor Barbour apologized to them for their treatment.
“That’s just one of the many reasons I can’t stomach it when I read accusations that Haley Barbour is responsible for ‘race-baiting’ in the recently concluded U.S. Senate campaign,” writes Staples.
Given his past, perhaps Governor Barbour reached out to the former Freedom Riders in order to mend a few fences, since he was looking to a presidential campaign the following year? It’s quite likely.
At any rate, let’s examine a few incidents from Haley’s long career and see if Rebekah can stomach these gems:
Haley Barbour has long been controversial when it comes to racial issues. One black member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, Willie Perkins, said of him: “As far as I’m concerned, he has never done anything as a governor or a citizen to distinguish himself from the old Democrats who fought tooth and nail to preserve segregation.” Another black representative, Rufus Straughter, said Barbour “has a pattern, in my opinion, of doing things that are outrageous and insensitive.”
And what might these outrageous and insensitive things be?
Perhaps his remark to a staffer during his failed 1982 run against Senator John C. Stennis: “You will be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks.” One would be hard pressed to find a more racially insensitive remark made by the vilest white supremacist.
Or perhaps his remarks in 2010 about the Civil Rights Movement in his hometown of Yazoo City: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he told the Weekly Standard. In that same interview, he actually praised the White Citizens’ Councils that defended segregation in the 1960s, all comments that he was forced to walk back before seriously considering a run for president, not because he did not agree with his own statements.
And how about his participation and defense of those White Citizens’ Councils? In 1988 these former groups were reincarnated, if you will, as the Council of Conservative Citizens, and Haley Barbour was a participant in their meetings. In 2003, when running for governor and being pressured about the issues, he refused to ask the CCC to remove his picture from their website.
In early 2011, just a couple of months after his legendary interview with the Weekly Standard, Governor Barbour found himself embroiled in a controversy about a state license place for Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, called the planned license plate “absurd,” and ripped Forrest as a “racially divisive figure,” and has called on Barbour to denounce the plan. “I find it curious that the governor won’t come out and clearly denounce the efforts of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest. As the head of the state, he shouldn’t tap dance around the question.” Barbour refused to denounce it.
In 2011 the NAACP actually sued Governor Barbour for “a racially discriminatory redistricting plan that has not been pre-cleared by the United States Department of Justice.” Not something a racial progressive would have on his resume.
(In a side note, current State House Speaker Philip Gunn won his seat in the state house in 2003 after against, then suing Barbour’s nephew, Jep, over redistricting that disenfranchised voters in Clinton. Jep held the seat initially but in a revote, Gunn won by 155 votes. The Mississippi Supreme Court sided with Gunn. What is it about the Barbours and the integrity of the voting process?)
So, if none of that makes you sick on your stomach, let us get to the question at hand, the race-baiting and smearing of Senator Chris McDaniel. It has been proven, though it obviously has not penetrated the mind of Rebekah Staples, that Haley Barbour was behind the outrageous ads that appeared on radio and telephone robocalls.
As a quick refresher, let’s see one of those radio ads that played on Election Day in predominantly black areas:
“If someone tells you that by voting today, you cannot vote in November – it’s just a Tea Party, bald-faced lie. Are you going to let the clock run out on today? By not voting, you are saying ‘take away all of my government programs, such as food stamps, early breakfast and lunch programs, millions of dollars to our black universities.’ Everything we and our families depend on that comes from Washington will be cut. Mississippi will never be the same. The question is, will you spend $5 on gas to vote, or allow the Tea Party to send us back to the good ol’ bad days? Vote against the Tea Party. Vote Thad Cochran.”
According to FOX News reporter Ainsley Earhardt, Citizens for Progress, an unregistered group tied to Haley Barbour, paid for the ad. It ran in the town of Canton and was broadcast a total of 48 times over a 12-hour period.
Citizens for Progress is also tied to the awful robocalls directed at Senator McDaniel.
Here is one of them:
Leading that charge was an operative named Mitzi Bickers, a black pastor from Atlanta, former president of the Atlanta school board, and aide to the mayor. She had already gained notoriety for a campaign, which operated under the same name – Citizens for Progress – that sought to raise local sales taxes. She was forced to resign as the mayor’s aide in 2013 after it was disclosed that she filed false financial disclosure forms related to that campaign.
Haley’s nephew Henry, who runs the Mississippi Conservatives Super PAC, which Haley founded and the FEC is already investigating, has admitted that the group paid out $44,000 for phone services, with $25,000 to Bickers. “We hired Mitzi Bickers to do paid phones,” Henry told the Daily Mail of London.
Is that not enough evidence that Haley Barbour is a race-baiter? If not, then perhaps you should stop drinking the kool aid. Make no mistake, there was a major league effort by the Republican Establishment, the Cochran campaign, and the Barbours, including Haley, to destroy Chris McDaniel’s reputation and paint him as a racist. And all in the name of winning an election. That, Ms. Staples, is despicable and stomach-turning, and every self-respecting Mississippian knows it.