Skip to comments.Byron York: Why did the Post protect Byrd's image?
Posted on 06/25/2005 9:09:51 PM PDT by Jean S
There was a striking passage in last Sundays Page One Washington Post story about Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) headlined, A Senators Shame: Byrd, in His New Book, Again Confronts Early Ties to KKK.
Historians, political analysts and admirers have long sought to reconcile Byrds early Klan affiliation with his image as a pillar of the Senate, reporter Eric Pianin wrote. More extraordinary is how he managed to overcome such a blot on his record to twice become Senate majority leader.
Its true. Byrd has indeed enjoyed an image as a pillar of the Senate. And given his history, that seems a bit odd.
How do you suppose it happened? Do you think a newspaper say The Washington Post might have had something to do with it?
Sundays article, based in part on the senators new autobiography, details how in the early 1940s Byrd started a chapter of the Klan in Crab Orchard, W.Va., recruited members, appealed to the KKKs national leadership and became the local exalted cyclops.
The story details how Byrd remained active in the Klan for longer than he has ever acknowledged and how, in 1945, he wrote a letter saying that he would rather die than see the United States degraded by race mongrels.
It was strong stuff. But surely nothing new, right? Surely the Post has covered that territory many times before, right? After all, Byrd has been in the Senate since 1959.
Well, actually, not. A review of the papers coverage of Byrd reveals that, on the whole, the Post has been extraordinarily reluctant to investigate or even criticize the Democratic leaders Klan history.
According to a search of the Nexis database, since 1977, 32 stories in the Post used Byrds name and the words Klan or KKK.
Three of them were letters to the editor. One was a book review. A few were stories in which Byrds name and Klan or KKK appeared but were not related.
Two were articles about Louisiana Klansman David Duke, who proudly cited Byrds former membership in the organization. One was a profile of another Klan leader who also proudly claimed Byrd as one of his own.
One was a brief Names and Faces account of a routine by comedian Dennis Miller, in which it was noted that an audience booed when Miller said Byrd was burning the cross at both ends.
One was a brief item criticizing a Byrd political opponent who brought up Byrds Klan membership. Another was a news story mentioning the same incident.
One was a story from 1979 that described a speech by then-NAACP chief Benjamin Hooks decrying the Klan. The Post reported that Byrd was in attendance, but the paper did not mention yes, did not mention that Byrd once belonged to the Klan.
A number of other articles contained brief mentions of Byrds past, such as the story from 1977 that described Byrd as a poor boy from the West Virginia coal towns who worked as a butcher, a welder in the Baltimore shipyards and once belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.
Another story, from 1993, described Byrd as a former filling-station attendant, meat cutter, produce salesman and shipyard worker once even a member of the Ku Klux Klan who had become a prince of the realm in the Senate.
You get the idea. Over the years, the Post has often steered clear of Byrds history with the Klan.
There were very, very few exceptions, such as the story in 1981 in which reporter Martin Schram directly confronted Byrd over the issue and got an extremely chilly response. Much more common was the admiring Post profile of Byrd from 1999 the paper was lauding Byrds opposition to the Clinton impeachment which began this way:
Sen. Robert Byrd is a believer in holy documents. They are the sacred tools for defending his Senate against the savages. The Bible is one such holy book. He learned to read with the King James Version and, seventy-some years later, has little use for any other Bible. Something about modern translations seems to sap the words of their sacred power. The U.S. Constitution is also holy writ. Watch him wield it. ...
Not until 2,532 words into a 2,779-word story did the Post say this:
As a young man campaigning for the West Virginia legislature in the 40s, Byrd briefly joined the Ku Klux Klan, hoping to gain votes. He quickly quit and has spent the past half-century publicly regretting it.
The Post didnt even go on a crusade when, in March 2001, Byrd twice used the N-word on national television. The paper published just one story, when Byrd apologized.
And now, after all these years of mostly soft-pedaling Byrds past, the Post wonders how it is that Byrd has managed to be regarded as a pillar of the Senate.
How do you suppose that happened?
York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week.
"Crab Orchard"? Do they grow on bushes or trees?
That senile, pork-barreling, greedy, corrupt, rheumy-eyed old Klansman can kick it anytime as far as I'm concerned. I hope he gets crabs on the way out, too.
A parenthetical D can absolve a multitude of sins.
A great evisceration of the Exalted Cyclops. Great job again by Byron York.
Don't hold it inside. Tell us how you really feel. :o)
Another great piece by York. Byrd becomes increasingly useful to the Republicans though as he descends into his dotage. Both Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh can build half hours around his piquant madness.
in 1992, Maxine Waters had become widely known for her extraordinarily hateful statements in the wake of that spring's Rodney King riots, nonetheless delivered a seconding speech for Clinton at the convention. Contemptibly, none of the networks covered it,instead, making sure that the dais could not be seen by the cameras, with huddled newspeople blocking the view (CSPAN did carry it live), and totally ignored it in their commentary afterward. In contrast, they gave extensive coverage to the corresponding seconding speech of Buchanan at the Republican Convention, which was initially well-received, but then spun into Mein Kampf. Ancient echoes of the Durbin/Rove dichotomy.
Laura LOVES it when Big Byrd lets loose.
"Is help on the waaaaay? NO!"
Bobby Byrd, the only person in the history of the Senate to vote against both black Supreme Court Justices. Voted against Marshall for being too liberal, against Thomas for being too conservative. He's a racist to the core.
Are you trying to suggest the MSM is biased or has ulterior motives.
You damned right-wing militant! How dare you insinuate something like that?
<< .... they gave extensive coverage to the corresponding seconding speech of Buchanan at the Republican Convention, which was initially well-received, but then spun into Mein Kampf. >>
That inspired and stirring seconding is likely the best American political speech I ever heard: Mr Buchannan at his zenith.
Before the Modern Inquistion we euphamise as "political correctness" spun his speech as you have described.
And Mr Buchannan went stumbling off -- through single-handedly electing Cli'ton, trade Ludditesqueness, incipient Korsokoff's and the Reform party -- to irrelevence.
It's time for the old coot to resign.
Well, you gotta watch out for 'em on toilet seats.
Or so I've heard.
And how he could end up being the ONLY senator to vote against the only two BLACK Supreme Court justices.
I agree, and the funny thing is that he's now quite out of step with most West Virginians with regard to race relations.
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