Deceased U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd will be remembered by lots of things: His love for dogs and hyperbole, his ability to funnel federal dollars into make-work jobs in his native West Virginia, his loathing of balanced budgets and the fact that he skillfully conned several generations of Appalachian woodhicks into voting for him, over and over again, for almost six decades.
In passing, Sen. Byrd will also be remembered for having joined the Ku Klux Klan as a “young man.”
A quick check of this morning’s obituaries reveal that in the eyes of the traditional media, Byrd the Progressive Porker is much more important than Bob the Exalted Cyclops.
Byrd joined the Klan at the ripe young age of 24 — hardly a young’un by today’s standards, much less those of 1944, when Byrd refused to join the military because he might have to serve alongside “race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds,” according to a letter Byrd wrote to Sen. Theodore Bilbo at the height of World War II.
Today’s obituaries, however, made little mention of Byrd’s once-deeply held hatred for African Americans.
For your reading pleasure, a collection of obituary snow jobs:
From the 11th paragraph of the LA Times’ Byrd obituary: “Byrd was not always a champion of liberal causes. He had come of age as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and cast a “no” vote on the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited discrimination against African Americans and others. He later renounced his actions in both cases and called his membership in the KKK ‘the worst mistake of my life.'”
ABC News noted that “despite his successful political track record, the Senate’s senior Democrat was no stranger to controversy and was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan,” as if calling for the extermination of dark-skinned peoples (as well as Jews, Catholics, and gays) was no more stirring a gaffe than Gary Hart’s monkey business.
MSNBC.com reported that “Byrd’s success on the national stage came despite a complicated history on racial matters. As a young man, we was a member of the Ku Klux Klan for a brief period, and he joined Southern Democrats in an unsuccessful filibuster against the landmark 1964 Civil Rights.” (The Ku Klux Klan no doubt objects to being called complicated, and has held since Day 1 one that there is nothing wishy-washy about castrations, lynchings or burning folks alive.)
CNN also gave Byrd a pass on his association with the early 20th-century homegrown terrorist movement, writing in the 20th paragraph of Byrd’s obituary that “He blamed ‘that Southern atmosphere in which I grew up, with all of its prejudices and its feelings,’ for his opposition to equal rights, which included joining the [domestic terrorist outfit] Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s.”
Of all the outlets that eulogized Byrd, only the Hill bothered to mention that a “young” Byrd not only joined the KKK, but also led his local chapter.
No single obituary of Byrd mentioned his 2001 use of the term “white nigger,” an early 20th-century anachronism that Byrd employed not once, but twice during an interview with Tony Snow.