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The Double Standard
by Andy Obermann
14 April 2004Christopher Dodd

Senator Dodd's comments on former Klansman Robert Byrd are shockingly similar to Trent Lott's comments on Strom Thurmond. 


Debate has raged for years as to the political allegiances of the mainstream American media.  Many conservatives feel it slants to the left, controlled by politicians and bleeding heart liberals.  These beliefs seem to have been cemented by a recent cover-up for a senior member of the Senate.

Maybe it was Condi Rice’s testimony, or even Ted Kennedy’s blathering, but one major story has been completely overlooked by the Dan Rather types in America’s newsrooms.  That is the story of Senator Christopher Dodd’s (D-CT) praising of the former Ku Klux Klan member, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Many of you may remember the scrutiny Senator Trent Lott deservedly received a couple of years ago.  For those in need of refreshing:  In December of 2002, Lott, then the majority leader in the Senate, made a short statement at a celebration of Senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday.  Lott, apparently caught up in the moment, claimed that the nation would have been better off had Thurmond been elected president in 1948.  “I want to say this about my state,” Lott rallied, “when Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him.  We’re proud of it.  And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Big mistake.

You see Thurmond, who following his failed presidential attempt served an unprecedented eight terms in the Senate, ran as a segregationist in 1948.  His record on Civil Rights was as shadowy as Bill Clinton’s internship program.  He and another senator (to be named later) led the charge in filibustering the 1964 Civil Rights Act and threatened to block African American students from public schools with citizen police forces.  He incited race riots with his words and was funded with money from the KKK.  In short, he wasn’t a man to be praised—especially by the sitting majority leader of the Senate.

Lott, as you recall, took the brunt of major criticism and media scrutiny from both Democrats and Republicans.  For a solid week, the “Lott-watch” was on every television news station and was the topic of discussion for op/ed pages across the country.  He eventually stepped down as majority leader and was replaced with Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Enter Christopher Dodd.

In a speech earlier this month commemorating the 17,000 vote of Senator Robert Byrd, Dodd proudly claimed that, “Robert C. Byrd…would have been right at any time [in our history].  He would have been right at the founding of this country…he would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this nation.  I cannot think of a single moment in this nation’s 220-plus year history where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country.”

Big uh-oh, right?  Well, one would think so.  After all, Senator Byrd is a former Klansman.  In fact, he was the official “Kleagle” (one who recruits new members for the cause) of West Virginia.  He is said to have “retired” from the group in 1943, but speeches in the 1950s and 1960s demonstrated his allegiance to the hooded few.  This gem of a statement from the 1964 filibuster of the Civil Rights Act (yes, Byrd was the other leader) shows his true colors, “[I would never fight] with a Negro by my side.  Rather I should die a thousand times…than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.” 

Now, in all fairness, many claim that Byrd has reformed his sordid past.  It may be true that he has stopped referring to African Americans as “race mongrels,” but he hasn’t stopped his bigoted rants.  In an interview on Fox News back in 2001, Byrd used the term “n****r” to denote race relations in America at the time.  “There are white n****rs.  I’ve seen a lot of n****rs in my time.  I’m going to use that word,” the “reformed” senator claimed. 

He obviously sounds like the perfect politician to lead America through the Civil Rights Era and Civil War—as Senator Dodd claims.  Nonsense!

The fact of the matter is if a Republican made statements such as Dodd’s, the media would be all over it.  There would be an outcry for resignation and censure.  Unlike Lott, Dodd even made his feelings known on the floor of the Senate.  At least Trent Lott had the decency to keep his comments out of the US Congress and at a private party. 

During the Lott controversy, Senator Dodd even claimed that, “…if a Democratic leader had made [Lott’s] statements, we would have to call for his stepping aside, without any question, whatsoever.” 

Dodd should follow his own advice and step down from all leadership positions in his party.  Americans cannot allow such racial divisiveness a pass, even if the media allows it.

Andy Obermann is majoring in History and Secondary Education at Missouri Valley College
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