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Byrd Apologizes for Racial Epithet

March 5, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., apologized for his use of a racial epithet in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Asked about race relations today, the 83-year-old Byrd said in the interview taped Friday with ``Fox News Sunday″ that they are ``much, much better than they’ve ever been in my lifetime. ... I think we talk about race too much. I think those problems are largely behind us.″

He continued: ``I think we try to have good will. My old mom told me, `Robert, you can’t go to heaven if you hate anybody.′ We practice that. There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I’m going to use that word.

``We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I’d just as soon quit talking about it so much.″

The interviewer, Tony Snow, said that Byrd’s office later issued an apology.

``I apologize for the characterization I used on this program. The phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today’s society. As for my language, I had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone of another race,″ according to the statement read on air.

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume was not particularly impressed by Byrd’s apology. He telephoned The Associated Press say the fact that Byrd felt ``comfortable enough on nationwide TV to refer to any group in that manner suggests that any progress he has made on race is relative.″

Calling the remark ``both repulsive and revealing,″ the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said he assumes Byrd’s apology was well meant, but suggested there comes a time when a person has to avoid making remarks that require apologies.

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