The Double Standard
by Andy Obermann
14 April 2004
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
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
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”
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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