Why Mississippi governor's sudden show of mercy is no 'shining example'

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Crossposted from Facing South.

Last week, NAACP President Ben Jealous called Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour "a shining example" of how governors should use their clemency powers, following Barbour's release of Jamie and Gladys Scott. The two sisters had been serving life sentences since 1994 for an $11 armed robbery they insist they did not commit. Three other teens who did admit participating in the robbery -- and who claimed they were coerced to implicate the sisters -- were sentenced to just two years.

Jealous's praise of Barbour as a "shining example" was stunning, given Barbour's years of resistance in the face of a national campaign for the sisters' release and the conditions he imposed on the two women when he finally did show mercy. Thirty-six-year-old Gladys must donate a kidney to 38-year-old Jamie, who is seriously ill. Meanwhile, four convicted killers whom Barbour earlier pardoned and another whose life sentence he suspended had no conditions placed on them in return for clemency, despite the brutality of their crimes.

Nor has Barbour been a "shining example" of racial tolerance and sensitivity in general. In recent months, he's made a series of foot-in-mouth gaffes, praising Confederate History Month, defending the racist white Citizens Council as good red-blooded patriots who did the right thing to aid integration, and playing down racial conflict in Mississippi during the turbulent 1960s.

Haley was forced to back-pedal on all these comments, blasting the Citizens Council for their support of segregation, clamming up on Confederate History Month, and praising Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement for their efforts to integrate his state. Now, the release of the Scott sisters fits in with the new script that Barbour is obviously rewriting for himself and the GOP.

Read the rest of this article on Facing South.