In a cordial phone call with me Tuesday regarding my column this week called “Barbour’s Mississippi Mud,” Henry Barbour, Mississippi’s Republican National Committeeman, clarified several points. Specifically, he said his earlier comments acknowledging his involvement in significant financing of certain ads in his state’s U.S. Senate primary, and supporting the content thereof, involved only one set of ads — run by a group affiliated with a Bishop Ronnie Crudup — but not with ads and robo-calls produced by a shadowy group called Citizens for Progress. In my column, I had criticized Barbour for his involvement in race-tinged advertising, some of which associated the tea-party movement with racism. I did not recognize that he had drawn a distinction between the two sets of ads.
Barbour says he disavows and “deplores” the ads I accurately described as follows:
They explicitly warned that [Senate challenger Chris] McDaniel was closely tied to people involved with the Ku Klux Klan. They said McDaniel had a “racist agenda.” They specifically branded the entire tea-party movement as having ‘racist ideas.’ And even the slightly-less-explicit robocalls, which Barbour already admitted helping pay for (although he says he never listened to them in advance), tied tea partiers explicitly to disrespectful treatment of the first African-American president.
On the other hand, here is the controversial language, from the Crudup-sponsored ads specifically aimed at black audiences, that Barbour said he did indeed help finance and whose content he supports:
A victory by Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniels is a loss for the State of Mississippi. It is a loss for public education. It is a loss for the health care industry of the state; for the farm families and agriculture. It is a loss for Ingalls and the ship industry; for our military bases. It is a loss for the citizens of this state in a time of natural disaster; for our public universities and particularly our historically black universities. A victory for Chris McDaniels is a loss for the reputation of this state, for race relationships between blacks and whites and other ethnic groups.
A second ad in this batch said the Senate race involved “an effort to roll back the hand of time” and said “we need to turn out in record numbers to push back against this tea-party effort.” It then went on (reasonably, in my opinion) to list ways in which the speaker thought incumbent Thad Cochran had reached out to black Mississippians through the years, before concluding that “he’s been good for black folk.”
I appreciate Barbour’s clarification, and apologize for any confusion. Without comment, I leave it to others to judge the messages in each of the ads.
At some point soon, I intend to revisit this entire subject, with the possibility of slightly amending some of my earlier conclusions.