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Flashback: Hillary Clinton Praises ‘Friend and Mentor’ Robert Byrd (a KKK Recruiter)

FILE - In this July 26, 2004 file photo, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, is embraced by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., at a bookstore in New York where they were launching his book "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency." Just hours before she was to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Clinton introduced Byrd as her mentor and told the audience that he has been a champion of the U.S. Constitution.  Byrd a fiery orator versed in the classics and a hard-charging power broker who steered billions of federal dollars to the state of his Depression-era upbringing, died Monday, June 28, 2010.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

In 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fondly eulogized Sen. Robert Byrd, a former member and recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan. Clinton called Byrd “my friend and mentor” in a video message to commemorate his passing.

As a young man in West Virginia, Byrd was involved in the KKK and reportedly recruited 150 members to the group. While serving in Congress, Byrd set the record for longest filibuster on the floor of the U.S. Senate with a 14-hour filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In a 2005 article titled “A Senator’s Shame,” the Washington Post’s Eric Pianin pilloried Byrd’s attempts to downplay his involvement in the organization as he grew older.

Despite his many achievements, however, the venerated Byrd has never been able to fully erase the stain of his association with one of the most reviled hate groups in the nation’s history.

“It has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one’s life, career, and reputation,” Byrd wrote in a new memoir — “Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields” — that will be published tomorrow by West Virginia University Press.

The 770-page book is the latest in a long series of attempts by the 87-year-old Democratic patriarch to try to explain an event early in his life that threatens to define him nearly as much as his achievements in the Senate. In it, Byrd says he viewed the Klan as a useful platform from which to launch his political career. He described it essentially as a fraternal group of elites — doctors, lawyers, clergy, judges and other “upstanding people” who at no time engaged in or preached violence against blacks, Jews or Catholics, who historically were targets of the Klan.

His latest account is consistent with others he has offered over the years that tend to minimize his direct involvement with the Klan and explain it as a youthful indiscretion. “My only


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