Wayne Laugesen, editorial page editor of the conservative Colorado Springs Gazette, has a well-earned reputation for making the most absurdly misguided observations imaginable in response to just about any news event that’s inconvenient or otherwise uncomfortable for political conservatives in Colorado. Back in 2018, Laugesen responded to controversy over then-GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton’s KKK great-grandfather by claiming the media was “ignoring” now-Gov. Jared Polis’ own supposed “connection” to the Klan–membership in the Democratic Party. In Laugesen’s zeal to protect Stapleton after Stapleton refused for months to address this ugly component of his family legacy, Laugesen simply ignored the intervening period of American history in which the Democratic Party rejected racism and racists fled into the arms of a waiting Republican Party (see: the Southern Strategy).
Today, as the campaign to remove monuments honoring Confederate leaders and other unapologetic racists in American history gains steam, Laugesen is back with another too-clever-by-half opinion piece, once again omitting whatever inconvenient facts get in the way of his single-minded goal of making Democrats look bad:
Demand removal of dozens of memorials to former Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., starting with his portrait in the U.S. Capitol.
Because black lives matter, activists and politicians are cleansing the landscape of symbols with any nexus to racism. They topple and burn statues of Confederate officers who died more than a century ago. They destroy statues of founders and former presidents who lived in an era predating the Civil War, the Civil Rights Act, and most other efforts to pursue the vision of freedom and justice for all.
TV executives have canceled “Cops,” “Live PD,” “Dukes of Hazzard” reruns, and other shows deemed racially inappropriate in the wake of Minneapolis police killing George Floyd, a black man suspected of a $20 crime…
First of all, Laugesen’s tone makes it obvious (in case you didn’t already know) that he doesn’t support “cleansing the landscape of symbols with any nexus to racism.” So we know from the outset this suggestion that it’s time to get rid of Sen. Robert Byrd’s legacy is totally disingenuous “whataboutism.” Neener neener, Democrats! You’ve got racists too!
Except, as The Hill reported ten years ago next Monday on the day Sen. Byrd died, there’s something very important Wayne Laugesen is leaving out of the story:
“Senator Byrd reflects the transformative power of this nation,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. [Pols emphasis] “Senator Byrd went from being an active member of the KKK to a being a stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and many other pieces of seminal legislation that advanced the civil rights and liberties of our country.
“Senator Byrd came to consistently support the NAACP civil rights agenda, doing well on the NAACP Annual Civil Rights Report Card. He stood with us on many issues of crucial importance to our members from the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, the historic health care legislation of 2010 and his support for the Hate Crimes Prevention legislation,” stated Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy. “Senator Byrd was a master of the Senate Rules, and helped strategize passage of legislation that helped millions of Americans. He will be sorely missed.”
In reality, Senator Robert Byrd is a perfect example of the history Wayne Laugesen doesn’t want to talk about: the realignment of the political parties from the middle 1960s onward that saw the Democratic Party give up power in Southern states in order to rid itself of a pre-civil rights movement legacy of racism. Robert Byrd became a steadfast supporter of civil rights legislation, and repudiated his former racism in powerful terms that make Laugesen’s cheap revisionism look downright fraudulent:
In an interview with The Post about his book, Byrd said, “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.” [Pols emphasis]
In the end, lumping Robert Byrd in with unrepentant racists whose monuments are coming down around the nation today demonstrates only one thing: Wayne Laugesen’s own limitless ignorance.
The only shock is that Phil Anschutz continues to pay for this embarrassing dreck.