Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour played the race card on Sunday while defending Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain against sexual harassment charges.
“I do think you have the smell here of [conservative Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas,” Barbour told NBC’s David Gregory. “Of where people thought he was clearly just being attacked by somebody who for years and years and years and years by somebody that never said a peep about him until he became a conservative African-American nominee for the Supreme Court.”
Barbour was referring to Anita Hill, who in 1991 told a Senate panel that she had been sexually harassed by Thomas.
After making those claims, Hill and her supporters faced years of attempted character assassination by conservatives.
“I demonized Democratic senators, their staffs, and Hill’s feminist supporters without ever interviewing any of them,” author David Brock admitted to The New York Times in 2001.
Brock went on to found the media watchdog group Media Matters for America.
Also appearing on NBC Sunday, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) called out Barbour’s support for Mississippi’s personhood amendment as an example of the way the Republican Party views women’s rights.
“Sexual harassment is serious,” Richardson declared. “We have to protect women in the workplace. I think Mr. Cain has to answer these questions. You know what is most disturbing is a Washington Post poll that I saw. Fifty-five percent of Republicans think this charge is not serious.”
“I think it is important, also, that we look at how women are fairing in Republican primaries. Personhood amendments are sprouting out everywhere. The extreme right wing of the Republican Party has taken over to the point where we now have an amendment in several states that criminalize a woman’s right not choose, that prevents in vitro fertilization, that prevents birth control, even in cases of rape and incest. I think what you are seeing is a huge assault on women’s rights in the Republican Parties and an extreme right wing that has taken over.”
Mississippi’s Initiative 26 defines personhood as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
Recent polls suggest that the state constitutional amendment — which critics say is a backdoor way to ban abortion — will pass. Petitions have also been filed to put personhood amendments on the ballot in Ohio, California and Nevada.
Watch this video from NBC’s Meet the Press, recorded Nov. 6, 2011.