This morning on CNN’s State of the Union, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) defended Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R-VA) omission of slavery from his proclamation on Confederate History Month. Barbour told CNN host Candy Crowley that it seems unnecessary to mention slavery because everyone knows that it was a “bad thing” and that people are exaggerating something that “doesn’t matter for diddly.” He also pointed out that the Mississippi Democratic legislature has approved a similar proclamation and has faced little criticism:
CROWLEY: The [Virginia] Governor didn’t even mention slavery in his proclamation. Was that a mistake?
BARBOUR: Well, I don’t think so…I don’t know what you would say about slavery, but anyone who thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing — I think it goes without saying.
CROWLEY: What about the sensitivity of it? Because we heard from a number of African American politicians and just people on the street that were interviwed in Virginia going “this is offensive to celebrate something that was really about slavery and has no mention of it?”
BARBOUR: Well maybe they should talk to my Democratic legislature, which has done exactly the same thing in Mississippi for years. As far as I know, the Democratic legislature — we have a majority — both houses are Democrats. I’m unaware of them being criticized for it or them having their supporters feel uncomfortable with it. [...]
To me it’s a sort of feeling that it’s just a nit. That it is not significant. It’s trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn’t matter for diddly.
Slavery is an especially sensitive issue in a state like Mississippi, where the wounds are still fresh. Not until 1995 did Mississippi finally ratify the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery. It wasn’t until 2009 that the Mississippi legislature finally passed a bill to repeal discriminatory Jim Crow laws that had been enacted in 1964 but ruled unconstitutional in 1967 by federal courts.
Some maintain that Barbour won his bid for Governor of Mississippi in 2003 in part because he pledged to keep intact Mississippi’s state flag design, which contains a miniature representation of the Confederate battle flag. Byron LaMasters of Burnt Orange Report has pointed out that Barbour has had documented connections with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens, a neo-Confederate Organization that lashes out at “so-called neo-conservatives” that “have embraced the legacy of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.” Barbour, however, refers to himself as a “fat redneck with an accent” who holds himself to a higher standard.
Last week, Think Progress pointed out that both Mississippi and Georgia join Virginia in officially honoring the Confederacy while omitting any mention of slavery. McDonnell has since apologized, stating “the failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake.”