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Joe Biden and the Ku Klucker (Front Page Mag)

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Joe Biden and the Ku Klucker (Front Page Mag) / Oct 14 2020

A reflection on Biden’s praise for the former KKK community organizer who “elevated the Senate.”

“Although I and my colleagues behind me revere the Senate, Robert C. Byrd elevated the Senate,” said vice president Joe Biden in the July 2010 memorial service for Sen. Robert Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who passed away at 92 after an eventful life. Back in 1975, the Atlantic billed Byrd as “The Man Who Runs the Senate,” while skipping details about Byrd’s career as a community organizer for the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1942, when he was 25, Byrd formed a new Klan chapter in Sophia, West Virginia, and in 1944 Byrd wrote to segregationist Senator Theodore Bilbo, Mississippi Democrat: “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.” Byrd claimed he left the Klan, but in public life the stank of racism was still wafting strong.

In 1967, Byrd voted against the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1991, when embattled Bush nominee Clarence Thomas pushed back against the “high-tech lynching of uppity blacks,” Byrd dismissed it a “diversionary tactic.” Sen. Joe Biden joined the former Ku Klucker in voting against Thomas. Nearly 20 years later, Sen. Biden was still looking up to the man who not only elevated the Senate but embodied it.

“Robert C. Byrd was a parliamentary library, a keeper of the institution of the Senate, and he was the institution itself,” Biden said. “For a lot of us, he was a friend, and he was a mentor and he was a guide,” within limits. As Biden explained, when he ran for President, Byrd said “I don’t want any senators running for president because you never come back and vote when I need you.”

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