'Glenn Beck': Forgive but Don't Forget Senator Byrd's Past

This is a rush transcript from "Glenn Beck," July 7, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GLENN BECK, HOST: Sen. Robert Byrd's funeral was held last week over the holiday weekend. This is the first chance that we had a chance to talk about the way Byrd was eulogized by the leaders of the Democratic Party. It was shameful.

Let me acknowledge a couple of things here first. Everyone — everyone makes mistakes. We make errors. Everyone can change. And we all must forgive, but we don't necessarily forget if we can learn from those mistakes.

Let me tell you something, it's the reason why I tell you that, you know, I'm a recovering alcoholic. 1995, man, I hit bottom. It's taken me from 1995 until today to try to - you know, I'm a recovering not only alcoholic but a recovering dirt bag.

I could use a second chance. I needed a second chance. I needed atonement as much as anybody else. I believe people can change. We have to believe that. Or we can't go on.

But what former president Bill Clinton said about Robert Byrd, I think, is despicable. Watch.


FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: He once had a fleeting association with Ku Klux Klan, and what does that mean? I tell you what it means. He was a country boy from hills and hollows of West Virginia. He was trying to get elected. And maybe he did something he shouldn't have done and he spent the rest of his life making it up.


BECK: Holy cow. First of all, he had a fleeting association with the Ku Klux Klan? Fleeting? He recruited 150 members in to a group. He was unanimously elected to a position called the Exalted Cyclops. Stories vary on the length of his actual involvement with the Klan but this much we do know.

In 1945, Byrd wrote to a segregationalist, a senator, Theodore Bilbo, about integration in the military service. Here is what he said, and I quote, "I shall never submit to fight beneath the banner with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times and see Old Glory trampled in dirt, never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels."

That's not fleeting association. That's deep-seed. The following year, Byrd wrote a letter to the grand wizard of the KKK, stating, "The Klan is needed today than ever before and anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia."

Now, Bill Clinton stands up and says, well, he was just doing that to get elected. Well, Bill, let me ask you a question. Does that make it better? And let me ask you another question. Are you saying that it's fine for people who burn crosses and are making nooses - it's OK to burn the crosses and nooses as long as you are doing it for political gain?

OK. I'm not sure what it says about Robert Byrd but I think a few things are being cleared up in my mind about Bill Clinton. You are doing it for political gain so that's OK. I have to say persecuting an entire race for people — you know, just for their votes, or because you hate them.

I'm not, I'm not sure which is worse or if any one of them is better. President Obama also seemed dismissive of Byrd's Klan days. Here is what he said.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As I reflect on the full sweep of his 92 years, it seems to me that his life bent toward justice. Like the Constitution he tucked in his pocket, like our nation, itself, Robert Byrd possessed that quintessential American quality, and that is the capacity to change.


BECK: How did he choke — he couldn't sit down — he barely could sit down with a cop and have a beer with the guy. How did he do that one? There were things that he did in his youth that he came to regret.

Well, sure, when he wrote the letter to the grand wizard, he was only 29 or 30 years old. You can't expect a youth of 30 to know right from wrong yet. He was barely out of diapers.

And when he filibustered and voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he was only 47. I mean, what does a 50-year-old know? Nothing. He was barely out of his teens. You certainly couldn't expect the maturity level, you know, of a right-thinking adult at a mere 47 years old.

It's a well-worn phrase. But can you imagine if this had been a Republican? Anyone who positively eulogized the life of a former Klan member would have been barbecued in the press and drummed out of the office politically.

We all know too well the story of Trent Lott who toasted his friend Strom Thurmond at the 100th birthday party. Thurmond was, by all accounts, a racist early on. Forgive, never forget. But Strom was never a Klan member.

Also, like Byrd, he regretted the early association with racism. But when Lott said, "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it and the rest of the country would have followed our lead. We wouldn't have had the problems over the years either." When he said that, all hell broke loose. He was forced to step down as Senate majority leader.

I want to show you two headlines. This is from the New York Times. This is when Strom Thurmond died, "Strom Thurmond, foe of immigration, dies at 100." That's the headlines. New York Times, "The guy who filibustered the civil rights movement."

Headlines, New York Times — ready? Robert C. Byrd, a pillar of the Senate, dies at 92. Both headlines were written by the same person, Adam Clymer. That's weird, isn't it?

I'm not saying we hammer Robert Byrd. I'm not. Forgive. Forgive. He might have changed. I'm not his judge. He's dead. He didn't hurt me or my family. But we shouldn't whitewash a life either.

In my opinion, Clinton and, to a certain extent, Obama did just that. The hypocrisy here of labeling conservatives racists because you want U.S. law enforced, the borders secured, while excusing or ignoring actual racist comments and actions up until the point you're 50 up until — including being an active member of the Klan is obscene. It's obscene.

He may have been a good guy when he died. I don't know. I don't know. I don't judge him. That's fine. I thought he had some good things that he did late in life. But I think we should point out and remember all the really, really, really bad things, too.

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