Byrd on Race Issues in W.Va.: "Those days are gone. Gone!"

By: Scott Saxton; Kallie Cart Email
By: Scott Saxton; Kallie Cart Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - After speaking at a political rally headlined by Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Biden, United States Senator Robert Byrd attended an open house for congressional candidate Anne Barth. Barth is a former aide who worked decades in the senator's office before running for Congress.

WSAZ had the rare opportunity to speak with Senator Byrd Friday afternoon and took the time to ask him about several topics.

"Who's she?" smiled Byrd when asked about Sarah Palin, the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. He offered no other comment on the candidate.

Byrd has been a critic of Republican Presidential candidate John McCain's plan to eliminate earmarks from the federal budget. Byrd has used the monetary requests frequently to fund numerous projects in West Virginia.

“I’m for earmarks because they help West Virginia,” Byrd said. "He’d have to adjust to me.”

WSAZ also spoke with Senator Byrd about racism. In the past week, at least three media organizations across the country focused on the race issue in West Virginia.

The Baltimore Sun spoke with voters in Mingo County who identified themselves as Democrats. They wouldn't allow their names to be printed, but the article reports they said the following about Obama.

"He's going to take my gun and then give my money to his own people."

"I'm not voting for that n--, and I ain't no racist when I say that either."

The New York Daily News wrote an article about the race in West Virginia Friday and included this clip:

Mary Gonzalez, an 87-year-old Democrat and former schoolmate of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), said she fears Obama "is going to pull" a race war as President.

"We don't stand a chance with the black people," she said.

Byrd, who has previously apologized for his one-time membership years ago in the Ku Klux Klan, said racism will not be an issue with voters in West Virginia.

"It’s not good. Those days are gone. Gone!” Byrd said to a cheering group of people in the headquarters for Anne Barth, a candidate for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District.

We also asked Senator Byrd about his support for Barth, an aide in his office for years prior to her run for Congress.

"Why Anne Barth for Congress? She’s pretty, isn’t she?” Byrd asked our reporter. "She’s the best. She is the best. She worked for me for at least twenty years and she knows the people of West Virginia and she will be for the people of West Virginia. She knows what the people of West Virginia need and I will be behind her every step of the way. She will be a great person to represent the people of West Virginia.”

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