Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina Defends Rick Perry: ‘If You’re a Southern White Guy, This Is Part of Your Life’

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., defended Rick Perry on radio’s ”The Mike Gallagher Show” Wednesday, saying the Texas governor is not racist and that Southerners are used to attempts to “intimidate” over issues of race.

When asked if there is a bullying factor involved in the criticism of Perry, Graham noted there is “an intimidation factor, you better believe it. You know, if you’re a southern white guy, this is part of your life.”

“Rick Perry is not a racist,” Graham said, when discussing efforts to remove Confederate symbols from state buildings.  “Rick Perry has produced jobs in Texas in a very impressive way.  He is a good man, and this is not going to work.”

In addition to a Washington Post story about  a racial epithet at the hunting camp Perry frequented, Perry has faced criticism this week for his 2000 defense of a plaque with a Confederate symbol in the Texas state Supreme Court building.  Then- Gov. George W. Bush initially defended the plaque, as well, but ultimately had it removed and replaced with a new plaque bearing a more inclusive message.

In 2000, the NAACP waged a campaign to remove all Confederate symbols from government buildings, and Texas and South Carolina were two of the targeted states.  A Confederate flag flew atop the South Carolina Capitol dome until 2000, when the state legislature voted to move the flag to a different location, but it still sits on the statehouse grounds at the Confederate War Memorial.

“The NAACP has said that’s not good enough,” Graham said.  “They’re trying to boycott sporting events in South Carolina and, you know what, it’s falling on deaf ears.”

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour faced criticism in December over comments that seemed to downplay the tension of the Civil Rights era.

“”I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” Barbour told the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson.  

Barbour later said that it was a “difficult and painful era.”

Barbour also  defended Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for declaring April as “Confederate History Month” in Virginia without acknowledging the role of slavery.

“To me, it’s a sort of feeling that it’s a nit, that it is not significant,” Barbour said in a CNN interview. “It’s trying to make a big deal out of something doesn’t amount to diddly.”

In an interview with Jonathan Karl in July, Graham discussed how a Republican presidential candidate can beat President Obama by focusing on a message of job creation.

“I really do believe President Obama is imminently beatable, but you’re gonna have to beat him with a game plan that most Americans buy into that’s better than his,” Graham said in July. “You win a majority of the independents and you keep your base intact. I think we need to get a center-right candidate for president who will talk about job growth in reasonable terms, talk about the sacrifices that need to be made. We can win this thing.”

Graham noted that there were several people in the race at the time – Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty – who would be strong contenders in 2012, and suggested there might be “more to come” just weeks before Perry entered the race.

Graham, who has yet to endorse a candidate this election, served as the national co-chairman of Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid.