Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones (D), chairman of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, received backlash from caucus members after defending controversial comments made by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
After last week’s election, Barbour referred to President Barack Obama‘s policies as “tar babies” during a conversation with his lobbying firm. Two sources leaked the incident and, in an email to POLITICO, Barbour readily admitted to using the racist slur.
“If someone takes offense, I regret it. But, again, neither the context nor the connotation was intended to offend,” wrote Barbour.“The Oxford American Dictionary defines the term as ‘a difficult problem, that’s only aggravated by attempts to solve it.’ This is exactly what I meant and the context in which I used the term.”
In response to the backlash Barbour received, Jones said that he wouldn’t go against the notoriously bigoted politician.
“The truth of the matter is that any public policy considered controversial is a political tar baby,” state Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones, chairman of the Black Caucus, said in a statement. “Religious freedom, for example, is a political tar baby for Mississippi because when you touch it you get stuck, and the more you struggle with it, the more entangled you get.
“Therefore, I do not condemn Gov. Barbour’s statements as racist, nor do I believe he intended for anyone else to view his comments as such,” Jones said.
“Gov. Barbour could have chosen more politically acceptable words to describe my president’s policies,” Jones said, “but that’s not the Haley we know. Mississippians are tired of race baiting accusations when they don’t apply, and in this instance Gov. Barbour’s words were misinterpreted.”
“The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus will fight for those who lack an adequate voice, but we won’t attack a native Mississippian — Republican or Democratic — to appease those who would label Mississippi as a backwards state.”
Black Caucus member Sen. John Horhn issued a statement saying that Jones did not speak for him or the caucus. “I assume these were the individual views of Senator Jones, which he is entitled to have, but I certainly found Gov. Barbour’s comments to be racially insensitive and in poor taste.”