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Barbour walks back comments on civil rights era

After coming under fire yesterday for his remarks about the civil rights movement, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has issued a statement to clarify his recollections of "Citizens Council" groups and segregation in the South.

Barbour said that the council groups were "indefensible" and called segregation "a difficult and painful era for Mississippi."

Here's Barbour's full statement:

“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.”

In the article in the Weekly Standard released yesterday, Barbour described a distinction in his hometown between the "Citizens Council" organization and the Klu Klux Klan. "Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders," he said. "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.”

Speaking about the height of the civil rights movement in the piece, Barbour said, "I just don’t remember it as being that bad."

The comments drew skewering from historians, who noted that the Citizens Councils were anti-integration entities founded in opposition to the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.