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Sen. Robert Byrd, one-time KKK member, backs Barack Obama

Sen. Robert Byrd's endorsement today of Barack Obama was both oddly timed and illustrative of the state of the Democratic presidential race. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia once was a member of the Ku Klux Klan but he long ago quit and apologized and he has endorsed Democratic presidnetial candidate Barack Obama

Obama picked up the backing six days after he got flattened in the primary in Byrd's home state of West Virginia. Obama can be excused for thinking, "Thanks, but where were you a week ago?"

That said, a nod from Byrd -- who in 2006 passed the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina as the longest-serving senator in U.S. history -- likely would have made only a negligible difference in the West Virginia vote (perhaps turning Obama's 41-percentage-point loss to Hillary Clinton into a 39-point one).

As venerable as the 90-year-old Byrd may be in the Mountain State, senatorial support generally offers presidential candidates little more than window dressing. These lawmakers rarely command a significant on-the-ground political apparatus, as distinct from some governors (whose endorsements, because of that, can carry clout). Obama, after all, was embraced by West Virginia's other senator, Jay Rockefeller, which obviously cut little ice.

Still, it is telling that Byrd would join the Obama camp after the candidate's West Virginia massacre -- and amid the probability that a presidential ticket ...

... Obama heads will not seriously compete for the state's five electoral votes.

Byrd, as an outspoken foe of the Iraq war from the start, was attracted by Obama's similar credential, as he mentions in his endorsement statement. But Byrd, having passed on active involvement in his state's primary, could have remained neutral; the fact that he chose not to is more evidence that, in the view of most Democratic bigwigs, Clinton's nomination hopes range from slim to none.

More than all this, though, Byrd's decision to stand with Obama deserves notice as a sign of one man's evolution.

As is noted in virtually every lengthy story about Byrd, as a young man he joined the Ku Klux Klan. There has been an ongoing dispute about the length of his membership and his commitment to the Klan's racist cause -- Byrd over the years has minimized his involvement; others have said that in doing so he ignores the facts.

The issue was examined by the Washington Post in a 2005 article headlined "A Senator's Shame."

What has not been in dispute is Byrd's mea culpas. The Post piece ended with this quote from him:

"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."

-- Don Frederick

(UPDATE: Comic Jay Leno, during the monologue for his late night show Monday, broached the Byrd endorsement. "That's got to make Hillary feel good, huh? Even the Klan guy is going, 'I’m going with the black guy.'")

Photo credit: Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (51)

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Byrd must have run out of clean white sheets and Barrak has the only laundry in town.

> Byrd must have run out of clean white sheets and Barrak has the only laundry in town.

How dare Obama add to his shady associates a former KKK member! Obama must secretly hate black people!

This headline is wildly inappropriate. Grow up or better yet evolve, Robert Byrd has.

This is just beautiful
Two Racists embracing in their love for hate.

America knows where the money is and there are billions to be made in racism. Look at Al Sharpton and Jessey Jackson they have made billions of dollars through race baiting. Look at all the News Organizations that made billions and nobodies had their careers made by OJ Simpson.

We can't accept hate ... We cant have it in God's House and we can't have it in the White House.

These two men Byrd and Obama had their careers made because the people that elected them were embracing something they shouldn't.

If you vote for either of these men you should be ashamed

Robert Byrd redeemed his good name long ago with the brilliance of the speech that he gave in the United States Senate on Wednesday February 12th 2003 ...

All people are entitled to seek redemption and the honorable gentleman has certainly done so .. His endorsement is deeply meaningful and is an example of how a person can grow throughout a long lifetime ... HE IS AN EXAMPLE OF "THE CHANGE" that is the great strength of the Obama campaign!

Wasn't there two different KKKs? The one in Birth Of A Nation seemed OK. Just fighting for the rights of people in the south who were against northern imperialism. I'm not an American though, so i can't judge, but your anti-whitey attitude in the states is over the top sometimes. Maybe if you elect this Obama guy you can get over your white guilt and be normal again.

OMG! Obama is supported by RACISTS!!!????
What shall we do now?

I guess it's about time we disregard any other Racist Smears and Guilt by Association against other candidates as well.

Senator Byrd is doing is an honorable act even as he approaches his mortal end--it is called healing the nation. We Democrats must heal our nation and get behind Senator Obama as Senator Byrd is calling us to do. The Hillary supporters who plan to give the race to McCain are coming from an ugly past and will lead us to an ungly future. As a senior citizen feminist, I say feminism works for human rights not just for women but for all humars, for men are also our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands. Enough with Ferraro and her mean bitter position.

Sen. Robert Byrd endorsement to Senator Obama is a sign of time of true reconciliation b/w races that brewing around the corner as one look at it in American context and experience but unlimited.

In other writing Sen. Byrd said calling Obama a “noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian” who “has my full faith and support.” Can u imagine this comes from the longest-serving senator in U.S. history and a one brief time KKK member?

So for all those of you out there willing to turn a solid humane page and ready to further human endeavour for peace, justice, understanding, cooperation and the harmonious but varied way of life for freedom and pursuit of happiness in global terms, Get ready

Honestly, I can't wait the day President Obama make another super - more perfect union speech – at the main gate of our KKK fellow dwelling, and try to remove the rancour and cool the bridge with them for good and for all of us. This time his Uncles needs him, did he needs them? U bet!!! Let us thank the heroic endorsement of Sen Byrd, truly it speaks volume.
Obama 08

ANYTHING to bring the "woman" down. Amazing....absolutely amazing! The "boys club" is alive and well, its more interracial now (which I guess is a good thing) but it's alive and well.

its sad to see so many comments above that are stemmed by rascism, shall I say rascists??

Byrd like so many others has come to an open mind and heart. I cannot be 100 % sure of his acceptance, but I can see that the journalist who wrote this story was motivated by rascism! idiot

Wow, guess Barack and the KKK have something in common, they both use racism as a main pillar of their organization. I mean really, if you don't vote for Barack throw-his-gramma-and-pastor-under-the-bus Obama, YOU ARE A RACIST!!!!!

Oh and don't walk around with a Hillary button on, cause the Blowbama supporters will suck their teeth at you RACIST!!!

The 2008 Democratic campaign - the only place where hard work and fighting for the working class gets rewarded with "she is clawing her way to the top", and "she goes negative", and "Mr. Obama is soooo holier than thou, even though he is a Liar"!!!

Hillary and your supporters... YOU ARE THE STRONG ONES!!!

While Obama supporters, AKA the "I'm doing the RIGHTEOUS THING" ones are walking around telling you to roll over and take it, you are instead STANDING UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN, THE SAME TYPE OF GUTS THAT BUILT THIS COUNTRY IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!


Is this full circle or end of the line?


dePaul Consiglio

"Wasn't there two different KKKs? The one in Birth Of A Nation seemed OK. Just fighting for the rights of people in the south who were against northern imperialism. I'm not an American though, so i can't judge, but your anti-whitey attitude in the states is over the top sometimes. Maybe if you elect this Obama guy you can get over your white guilt and be normal again."

- this is the most ignorant post i've read in a long time... please, pick up a book... any book ... even dr. seuss or shel silverstein ... anything to help u advance beyond the general body of knowledge of a 3rd grade student

How about the Rush Limbaughs, Shawn Hannities, etc news...they all make their money spewing hate and intolerance of anyone that does not buy their warped way of thinking. They all have blood money on their hands.....

I think it's horrible that the press focuses on Robert Byrd's past. Anyone who has read The Audacity of Hope knows Obama wrote extensively about Senator Byrd's regrets for mistakes he made as a foolish young man. He deeply regrets those mistakes, Senator Byrd has served his country well. Before making any judgements about a good decent man, I suggest you look up his record in the senate ot better yet read Obama's book it really is brilliant and you will learn a lot of useful info about our next president.

Please America stop bieng two colour code and smell the life in the beuty of gray instead.
Humanity is well off by compassion and clear minds of useless racist words.
The end of times is near so pray for kindness inside of each of us.
When the creator decided that you must go black or white he don't descriminate right?
Same in laife!

Karl Rove supports the decisions of the TriLateral Commission ie. Bush puppeteering. Bill Clinton is a member of the TriLateral commission whose only purpose is to expand the one world order whose first absolute action in the support the NAFTA which Clinton signed off one. 'They' are all part of the same, one in the same. Google it = TriLateral Commission.

Is "wow". Now I have realized why people think our country is so stupid. I read the first two comments and I am sure that with people like that in our country, our economy will definitely go into a recession.

The headline reference to Sen. Robert Byrd's past membership in the Ku Klux Klan certainly has some grab value, and it is most assuredly the case that LA Times reporters need some personal mojo to avoid the next round of hatch-job layoffs from their corporate masters, but it seems just a bit disingenuous that the article spends almost as much time bleating about Byrd's past as it does about the nation's prospective future president.

Not only was Sen. Byrd "an outspoken foe of the Iraq war from the start," as the writer concedes, but he was also stunningly eloquent and eerily prescient in his anti-war speeches on the floor of the Senate. Fortunately, when the history of this miserable presidency and its awful wars is written, far more note will be made of men like Byrd for their vociferous opposition to the outrages of our time than to their lack of judgment in their earlier lives.

I am hopeful that the next time the writer of this article, Don Frederick, mentions Pope Benedict XVI, his headline will expend the necessary copy space to include the qualifier, "Former Nazi Youth Member." Boy, that'll get a few laughs on the late-night comedy circuit, too.

Robert Byrd serves fifty years in the Senate and is recognized as the preeminent advocate of a Constitutional position on the war powers of Congress. And your headline refers to him only as a "one-time KKK member"? Jeez, what a cheap shot! The man really deserves better than this!

I dont get it. Outside of 2 comments I've read I wonder if a computer random retarded statement generator created the rest of these posts. I don't understand how the Hillary as working class hero concept has unfolded unless you just listen to how she paints the story. How many of you look into anything? Really. People who make their mizpeld point ALL IN CAPS!!!? And the Byrd KKK what? It's a thing and all sure, noted by author. Done deal, interesting but not actually current. Do you know who Byrd is? RACIST JOINS RACIST!!! What the hell? I just googled cuz I heard about Byrd's support. I know it doesn't really matter but I was stoked cuz I like Byrd. As a young person I only first took notice of Byrd pre-Iraq as he took floor in his "sleep walking through history" speech. Look it up if ya don't know... research is good. I was impressed by his candor and what I believe to be sincerity that Congress was silent in what should be a last resort, war, simply jumping on the train. I have since found him intriguing as he waves his copy of the Constitution like a bible when griping at Congress giving away their powers to the Executive branch under duress or Corporations through trade agreements like NAFTA that close the doors to public influence. I feel these things lead Byrd to see Obama as an ally who will shake things up a little in what is now the status quot. He must know his time is short anywho. Maybe he'd like to know he can pass a torch or two. Byrd is pretty much about the Constitution. If you just say KKK Blah blah then what are you? ask yourself? did I research anything or just freak out. None of us know much. But at least try. The process is worth a lot.

Hillary Clinton supporters really have lost their minds huh? Do you seriously not remember Hillary playing the sexist card like a million times? She thinks we should vote for her just because she is a woman that is married to a former president. I would vote for a woman that had legitimate experience and didn't feel entitled to the presidency. Its not a crown! If we wanted monarchy we certainly wouldn't want it to be with the Clintons!

Byrd is 90 years old and he's from West Virginia. I'd surprised if he wasn't somehow related to the KKK back then. The important thing is he has since redeemed homself and in doing so hugely honored the country's civil right movements. We'll know many died for the cause. Byrd's transformation is a poinant and touching story in itself. So I think it's natural that two honorable, reflective and thinking persons should come together.

LOL ! Stupid comments can become addictive.... seriously I find myself spending my time reading comments about the elections and some people are just soooo narrow minded.

Marvricovich : Are you living in a world of your own.. do you need help?

Same goes for all the people who make comments about people they no nothing about and build whole arguments on facts that are based on information that has been twisted to fit there needs..

Philip from Europe.

Anyone who could say, on hearing that a white man has endorsed a black man, that they're both racists has something wrong with them. The very fact of the endorsement belies any accusations of racism.

What is it they say about those who protest the loudest?

Robert Byrd was not merely an adult KKK member but also an officer of that racist hate group, which he joined for political purposes. Just a few years ago he offended the nation by uttering the "white N....r comment from the floor of the Senate trying to "educate" voters in West Virginia colloquialisms, no doubt. That word should not be used in our halls of government. Obama should reject Byrd's endorsement, but he will not. After all he wants to have direct meetings with Holocost denyers and other racists who hate America and have sworn to kill Americans. Senator Clinton was correct to refer to Obama's purile understanding of foreign policy as "naieve and reckless." When any US President meets with any foreign leader he bears the honor of the American people. Obama has Rev. Wright's understanding of honor, rooted in "hate America gibberish."

Take a look at yourselves. I dare you.

Uhh, That all you got. If so have at it. "We" Ieave it to you.

I wonder if Obama had been in the Senate when Byrd was rallying against the war if he would have been at his side. Or would he just vote present as was his habit, or vote with the majority because he doesn't like to make waves. Obama practices in the senate would say he would have voted with the rest. Of course the truth is he didn't vote at all, because he wasn't even there. He gave some safe little interview where what he said didn't matter. And to Tom from Cali. maybe you should take some of that research time and devote it to Obama. He got into the state senate by using a legal process to disqualify his opponents, kinda the way he is trying to get rid of Hillary. He got into the senate the same way and eventually faced only the not so popular Alan Keyes. He has been shoved down our throats, and now the Democrats will lose this fall because of all the dirty tricks.

As an African, I can't help but notice the lack of substance in these American Blogs. With hundreds of yrs in a democratic system and the claim of civilization, education and moral high ground, it is embarrassing for the rest of the world to see how uncivilized Americans are behaving. From Washington post Blogs, NYT Blogs, LAtimes etc, you find no substance in the arguments of the bloggers only name calling, lies, and ignorance. No wonder all your jobs are going to China and India and other third world countries while you people are busy fighting each other over everything but the real issues affecting you and the rest of the world

This should be interesting. It seems that many blacks stood behind Obama when the Reverend Wright issue occurred. Then some tried to make the Hagee endorsement equivilant to the Reverend Wright connection.

So, I am curious to see how the black community responds to the endorsement from a former member of the KKK.

Just another comment......

Only a Democrat could be a former member of the KKK and then have a long career in the Senate!

Do you think a Republican could ever get elected to office, if they had even the slightest possible connection to KKK?

But a Democrat! We still have what's his name, the man with the $90,000 of bribe money in his freezer, still in office!

"I am not very religious, but I think Nostradamus got it right again."

Oh really? What did he ever get right, other than something so vague it can be interpreted however you like?

"What is God going to think of all the lemmings that follow a man of darkness?"

"Man of darkness?" Be honest now, is that the real reason you believe what you said in the rest of this post?

Absolutely amazing!

Even when a former KKK (Black hater) is able to see the potential and leadership in the next POTUS BHO the ignorant stupid americans still try to spin it as something bad.

Seriously, you people really need to open your eyes. America the land of the free where REAL patriots don't allow people to be held indefinitely with no proof of crimes and REAL americans don't judge by skin color have already decided who is going to be POTUS. You haters and racists better just deal with it now.

a lot of people in the south are still racist
one politician vocally supports another
one short, sophomoric article and look at all the ridiculous comments it has generated. what the ---- is wrong with americans? when i was a teenager i hated our government; i thought they were 'messing everything up'. now i realize it's us, "the people" messing everything up. can you believe we voted for bush? twice?! stupid. can you believe we're actually taking a chance on a bush-clinton-bush-clinton quarter century? pathetic. can you believe the people who've left comments on this article?!! nauseating. sorry obama, there is no hope.

The democrats have a long history of anti black, pro slavery, and pro segregation. The democrats FOUGHT legislation to integrate blacks with whites, FOUGHT legislation to abolish slavery, and generally promoted segregation in the early 1900's. Not to mention Kennedy's administration was responsible for bugging and harassing MLK and his group. It is simply amazes me that any african american would vote for a democrats. Its amazing what propaganda and a biased liberal media with a strong political agenda rather than the desire to report the truth can do!

I agree with African. I am Japanese residing in the U.S. The arguments about race over presidential looks pointless and a total waste of time. It's really uncivilized. America and its future has great impact on the rest of the world even though many citizens may not be aware of it and their responsibilities as world citizens. I myself experienced 9-11 in Manhattan. I still remember i walked home in falling ashes. I've been disappointed since then that America chose to go backward instead of moving forward in terms of foreign policies. I cannot help but thinking that some of the comments here on this article reminds me of the expression, a big fish in a little pond.
Food price is going up, climate is changing. Wake up Americans and let's solve our problems together!!

If we don't stop fighting each other we will never succeed at bettering the lives of our fellow human beings.

It's not about being right or wrong, it's about common ground.

Ted Kennedy knows that. We should take a seat and listen.

The hardest thing for people to do is admit they are wrong, and change. Byrd can't change the past, but at least he is trying to do the right thing now. No one chooses their parents, or their upbringing. He broke away from his bigoted past. The hate and wars are caused by people who refuse to change, and never see the other siide. I believe Byrd deserves credit for changing.

These posts are sad!
If you believe the any politician you are a fool. As for Senator Byrd the true test of greatness is not words, but a willingness to give up power. No politician can give you anything you can't give yourself. Even hope!

These posts are sad!
If you believe the any politician you are a fool. As for Senator Byrd the true test of greatness is not words, but a willingness to give up power. No politician can give you anything you can't give yourself. Even hope!

I agree with the African and the Japanese person.........

If we don't stop fighting each other we will never succeed at bettering the lives of our fellow human beings.

We affect millions of people all around the world.

We as Americans are custodians to the planet and it's people.

Don't they deserve our petty fighting.

It's not about being right or wrong, it's about common ground.

Ted Kennedy knows that. For once we should take a seat and listen.

Mickeyville, we can't. We Americans are too stupid to set aside trivial things as skin color. Sad, but true. Maybe in 30 or so years when the 50's generation is dead. I don't see the racism in the kids that I see in the 50's generation thank god.

I am a 46 year old black female. All I have to say is Robert Byrd has remorse for his past. The God I serve says that I should forgive!! And I have!!! We have all done things that is wrong. Anyone without sin cast the first stone!!!!

Today (May 21) U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, whose district voted for Clinton in that state's Feb. 5 primary, joined the Obama team. This kind of thing and media bias has put Obama where he is today. Very unfair to Clinton and very unfortunate for the country.

A magnet to the racists,traitorrs and other Judas.As the
senile KKluxer,Obama is afflicted with acute vebal diarhea
and the stench is becoming unbearable to real ordinary
hard working middle class Americans. Dont count on the
elitist super delegates to save their party from a calamitous defeat in november....they are so happy to be
represented by a doctrinaire secterian leftist rabblerouser.

Sen. Bird reminds even the most casual observer of that
not so rev.Wright...two racist extremists mouthing off to
all that would listen. Charles Manson might refrain from
endorsing the Illinois imposter as he is everything but a

The only reason the sen is even being nice is because he knows that if he was to show his true side on tv he would be removed from his seat and we all know that once you are in the KKK you never change how you feel i know the sen is still raciest but will never show it i bet if slavery had a chance to come back he would be one of the first ppl to go for it once raciest always raciest you he knows he wants to hang Obama himself but he can't cause all he can do is sit back and watch the very first black president lead us.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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