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State GOP Official Apologizes for Letter

January 05, 2003|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

An article distributed in 1999 by a California Republican Party official suggesting that the country would be better had the South won the Civil War has created controversy within the party and led to accusations of bigotry on Saturday.

The article, "What if the South had Won the Civil War?" was included in an online newsletter sent by Bill Back, now vice chairman of the state party.

Written by conservative commentator William S. Lind, the article stated, "Given how bad things have gotten in the old U.S.A., it's not hard to believe that history might have taken a better turn." It also says that race relations in the South were damaged not by slavery but by reconstruction and migration of blacks to the north.

The online newsletter surfaced last week as Back continued his campaign for state party chairman, which will be selected next month. Back said Saturday that he sent the reproduced article to state party members to encourage political discussion and that he strongly disagrees with Lind's views regarding slavery and reconstruction.

"Upon reflection, I should have been more sensitive regarding issues raised in this piece and not included it in the e-mail," Back said in a written statement Saturday. "I regret any pain and offense taken by readers of the publication and any of my fellow Californians."

But Shannon Reeves, secretary of the state Republican Party and president of Oakland's NAACP chapter, called the article "bigoted" and said Back's actions make him extremely angry. "This is far worse than any statement Trent Lott made."

Lott, a Mississippi Republican, was forced to resign as Senate majority leader after making comments widely seen as pro-segregation at Sen. Strom Thurmond's (R-S.C.) 100th birthday party in December.

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