Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) might have gotten the exactly the help he didn't need from a friend this morning, as Republican Governors Association chairman Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) defended him for issuing a proclamation in honor of Confederate History Month that did not include reference to slavery.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Barbour said people already know slavery was a bad thing and that the outcry over McDonnell's proclamation amounted to making "a big deal out of something that doesn't amount to diddly."
Barbour's main point was that Mississippi's own Democratic-controlled state legislature has adopted similar resolutions in honor of Confederate soldiers, as have Mississippi governors of both parties. Asked by anchor Candy Crowley if McDonnell's resolution was a mistake, Barbour said, "I don't think so."
"I don't know what you would say about slavery, but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing--I think that goes without saying," he said, adding "Maybe they should talk to my Democratic legislature, which has done the exactly same thing in Mississippi for years...I'm unaware of them being criticized for it."
As for the criticism McDonnell faced, including from President Obama, Barbour said: "It's sort of feeling that it's a nit, that it is not significant, it's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't amount to diddly," he also said.
The problem for McDonnell, of course: He's been saying for several days now exactly the opposite, apologizing repeatedly for leaving slavery out of the proclamation and calling it a "major omission."
The comments from the RGA head and major McDonnell supporter could threaten the governor's attempts to put the issue to rest and move on.
The Democratic National Committee has already called on Republicans to condemn Barbour's remarks, with DNC Press Secretary Hari Sevugan saying that failing to do so would "send a strong message to all Americans that Republicans endorse Governor Barbour's sentiments and are content not only to be left behind in another century, but that they deserve to be a small regional party in the permanent minority."
We've reached out to McDonnell's office for a response and will let you know what they have to say.
UPDATE 3:14 p.m.: Tucker Martin, McDonnell spokesman, sent a statement by email that generally praises Barbour without specifically addressing this morning's comments. "Governor Haley Barbour is a tremendous leader for Mississippi. Governing Magazine named him Governor of the year in 2006 for good reason. He has led his state's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, focused on economic development and job creation, reformed the public education system and put Mississippi at the forefront of alternative energy research and development. We thank him for his leadership and service to the state and country," Martin said.