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Haley Barbour Calls Segregationist Citizens' Councils "Totally Indefensible"

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, right, accompanied by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., speaks before the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and Offshore Drilling on response following the BP spill, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, right, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.,
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, right, accompanied by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., speaks before the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and Offshore Drilling on response following the BP spill, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in Washington.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is walking back his praise of "Citizens' Councils,"segregationist groups that resisted integration through economic and political pressure.

Controversy erupted following a "Weekly Standard" profile of Barbour in which the governor was asked how his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi integrated schools without violence. Barbour said it was because "the business community wouldn't stand for it."

He then continued:

"You heard of the Citizens' Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."

Barbour, a potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate, was quickly criticized for lauding Citizens Councils, whose segregationist rhetoric you can see here.  He has now responded in a statement that calls the Citizen Council in his hometown "totally indefensible, as is segregation."

The statement in full, via Politico:

"When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns' integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn't tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the 'Citizens Council,' is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time."


Brian Montopoli is senior political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.