Haley Barbour Couldn't Buy Press This Good

Remember when newspaper articles about one politician attacking another used to include a response to those attacks, and maybe even some assessment of their validity? Those were good times, weren't they? Sadly, those days are long gone at the Washington Post, as Karen Tumulty's report (really just a glorified transcript) on Mississippi governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Haley Barbour demonstrates.

The first five paragraphs of Tumulty's article are devoted to passing along Barbour's attacks on President Obama's economic policies, without a word of response from the White House or anyone who disagrees with Barbour. And Tumulty makes no effort to assess the validity of Barbour's attacks or put them in context for readers. She passes along Barbour's claims that Obama's economic policies have made the economy worse, but doesn't mention that, for example, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the 2009 stimulus package increased employment by as much as 3.5 million. Tumulty quotes Barbour accusing Obama of “call[ing] for record tax increases,” but she doesn't mention that the stimulus cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.

Next, Tumulty devoted a paragraph to Barbour's economic agenda (again, no counterpoints or independent assessments included.) After a couple of paragraphs touting Barbour's political strengths, we come to this passage:

It was evident that Barbour has also moved to address another potential stumbling block to his candidacy — a series of recent comments that have been portrayed as racially insensitive.

Seated at the front of the ballroom for Barbour's speech was a table of African American community leaders. Among them was Andrea Zopp, president of the Chicago Urban League, who had initially planned to object to Barbour's appearance here, because she had been offended by an interview last year in which the Mississippi governor had seemed to defend the South's notorious segregationist Citizens Councils. [Emphasis added]

Barbour seemed to defend the Citizens Councils in remarks that were portrayed as racially insensitive? That's quite a generous description. Here's what Barbour said:

“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 didn't seem to defend the Citizens Councils: He defended them. That wasn't portrayed as racially insensitive: It wasracially insensitive. And it wasn't an anomaly: Barbour has, among other things, courted the support of the Council of Conservative Citizens. But Tumulty doesn't tell readers that Barbour's recent comments are merely the latest in a series of racially insensitive comments and actions. Nor does she mention that Barbour's comments were criticized by NAACP leaders and historians. Here's what she does instead:

Zopp said, however, that she decided not to protest the speech after Barbour's aides and the Chamber of Commerce put her in touch with a number of African American business leaders in Barbour's home state.

They praised the governor for the measures that he had put forward to encourage minority business development, she said.

“Actions speak louder than words, and the minority business organizations that have worked with him are very positive,” Zopp said. “I'm here to hear what he has to say.”

You see, Haley Barbour's defense of racist organizations may have been portrayed as insensitive, but -- according to theWashington Post, at least -- African American leaders in Mississippi think Barbour is just super.