Now that Hillary Clinton has taken it on herself to attack Donald Trump for his toleration of white supremacists, it might behoove her to attack her own husband, who rationalized the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.V.) membership in the Ku Klux Klan by lamely allowing Byrd was simply trying to get elected.
Clinton was speaking at Byrd’s funeral in Charleston when he slammed newspapers for focusing on Byrd’s history with the KKK. He said:
They mention that he once had a fleeting association with the Ku Klux Klan, and what does that mean? I’ll tell you what it means. He was a country boy from the hills and hollows of West Virginia. He was trying to get elected. And maybe he did something he shouldn’t have done, and he spent the rest of his life making it up. And that’s what a good person does. There are no perfect people. There certainly are no perfect politicians.
Byrd’s history with the KKK and racial prejudice was hardly “fleeting.” He started in 1942 by recruiting 150 people to a new chapter of the KKK in Sophia, West Virginia. He wrote later that a Klan official told him, “You have a talent for leadership, Bob … The country needs young men like you in the leadership of the nation.” Byrd continued, “Suddenly lights flashed in my mind! Someone important had recognized my abilities! I was only 23 or 24 years old, and the thought of a political career had never really hit me. But strike me that night, it did.” Byrd was later unanimously elected the top officer in the local Klan unit.
In December 1944, Byrd wrote to Senator Theodore G. Bilbo, “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”
In 1946, Byrd wrote a letter to a Grand Wizard of the KKK, stating, “The Klan is needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia and in every state in the nation.” He later protested in 1952 when he was running for Congress, “After about a year, I became disinterested, quit paying my dues, and dropped my membership in the organization. During the nine years that have followed, I have never been interested in the Klan.”
“He was a country boy from the hills and hollows of West Virginia. He was trying to get elected.”
Bill Clinton, rationalizing Democratic Senator Robert Byrd’s KKK history
Byrd explained decades later that he joined the KKK because he “was sorely afflicted with tunnel vision — a jejune and immature outlook — seeing only what I wanted to see because I thought the Klan could provide an outlet for my talents and ambitions,” acknowledging in 2005, “I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times … and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened.”