Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Why did the Post protect Byrd's image?

Yeah, why? Trent Lott wants to know, too.

There was a striking passage in last Sunday’s Page One Washington Post story about Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) headlined, “A Senator’s Shame: Byrd, in His New Book, Again Confronts Early Ties to KKK.”

“Historians, political analysts and admirers have long sought to reconcile Byrd’s early Klan affiliation with his image as a pillar of the Senate,” reporter Eric Pianin wrote. “More extraordinary is how he managed to overcome such a blot on his record to twice become Senate majority leader.”

It’s true. Byrd has indeed enjoyed an image as a pillar of the Senate. And given his history, that seems a bit odd.

How do you suppose it happened? Do you think a newspaper — say The Washington Post — might have had something to do with it?

Sunday’s article, based in part on the senator’s new autobiography, details how in the early 1940s Byrd started a chapter of the Klan in Crab Orchard, W.Va., recruited members, appealed to the KKK’s national leadership and became the local “exalted cyclops.”

The story details how Byrd remained active in the Klan for longer than he has ever acknowledged and how, in 1945, he wrote a letter saying that he would rather die than see the United States “degraded by race mongrels.”

It was strong stuff. But surely nothing new, right? Surely the Post has covered that territory many times before, right? After all, Byrd has been in the Senate since 1959.

Well, actually, not. A review of the paper’s coverage of Byrd reveals that, on the whole, the Post has been extraordinarily reluctant to investigate — or even criticize — the Democratic leader’s Klan history.

Go read it all and ask yourself what would happen to a non-Democrat with the same history?

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