The following is a response from Sen. Robert Byrd’s spokesman to the Human Events series, "Hoodwinked: Race and Robert Byrd." Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin was provided a detailed list of questions prior to publication. He offered the following rebuttal.
Senator Byrd has not hidden from his past membership in the Ku Klux Klan. He has acknowledged it and apologized for it on countless occasions. He has called his membership in the Klan the worst mistake he’s ever made in his life. The world has changed vastly since the 1940s, and so has Senator Byrd.
The Bilbo letters in particular have been in the public domain for many, many years. Senator Byrd finds those letters to be abhorrent, and is ashamed that he would ever be associated with such a mindset. He has said so publicly and repeatedly.
Senator Byrd has stated repeatedly that, if he could recast his vote on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he would change his vote. It is one of the very few, of the nearly 17,500 votes that he has cast in the Senate, that Senator Byrd regrets.
For Human Events to dust off charges that have been before the public for decades and then to claim that they are new smells of a political smear effort. This seems especially true considering that the magazine has been paid thousands of dollars to run full-page ads from Senator Byrd’s Republican opponents.
Senator Byrd has no expectation that these stories will be balanced. These stories seem more focused on issues more than a half-century old, rather than on the person that he is today.
Joshua R. Preston, author of the Byrd series, offered this response:
"As has so often been the case, Sen. Byrd chooses not to respond to specific questions, many of which have their basis in his own words delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate, many years after his days as Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops of his Raleigh County, W.Va., Klavern.
"Clearly his hope is that, by ignoring his own racially-charged words and deeds as an elected official yet again, he will not be held accountable for them and we will forget them. Only the public and the press can hold him responsible."