Former State Gov. of Mississippi Haley Barbour made the controversial comment during a post election conference call for clients of BGR Group, Barbour’s lobbying group
When former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour called President Barack Obama’s policies “tar babies” during a conference call with clients of his lobbying group, he said he meant to convey the difficulty of the issues faced.
That’s what the former governor told Politico in an email responding to questions about the comment, which some consider a racial slur.
“The Oxford American Dictionary defines the term as ‘a difficult problem, that’s only aggravated by attempts to solve it.’ This is exactly what I meant and the context in which I used the term,” Barbour wrote to the news site in an email. “If someone takes offense, I regret it. But again, neither the context nor the connotation was intended to offend.”
Many remember the childhood cartoon of Br’er Fox from the Uncle Remus folk tales by Walt Disney. In one tale, Br’er Fox constructs a doll out of a lump of tar and dresses it with some clothes. When Br’er Rabbit comes along he addresses the tar “baby” amiably, but receives no response. Br’er Rabbit becomes offended by what he perceives as the Tar-Baby’s lack of manners, punches it, and in doing so becomes stuck. The more Br’er Rabbit punches and kicks the tar “baby” out of rage, the worse he gets stuck.
Now that Br’er Rabbit is stuck, Br’er Fox ponders how to dispose of him. The helpless but cunning Br’er Rabbit pleads, “but do please, Br’er Fox, don’t fling me in dat brier-patch,” prompting Fox to do exactly that. As rabbits are at home in thickets, the resourceful Br’er Rabbit escapes. One of the questions that should be asked is, “what place does this have in politics?”
According to Politico, the politician, who co-founded the BGR Group in the 1980’s after he was President Ronald Reagan’s political director, made the comments during a conference call with 100 or so clients on Thursday. One person who was privy to the conversation told the news site that Barbour was talking about the current electoral situation and the current president’s policies and how that would affect upcoming 2016 candidates.
“And then he said there is no one who will run for president who will endorse Obama’s issues, because Obama’s issues are ‘tar babies,’” the individual told Politico.
“In the Q and A portion of the call, there was a discussion about whether Democrats will run from or embrace the President’s policies and record in 2016. I replied that once candidates embraced the President’s policies and record they will be stuck with them—no matter how unpopular they are. Hence the literary reference,” Barbour explained to Politico.