Apparently, if you don’t like certain facts, you can just declare them false. That seems to be the thinking behind a USA Today “fact check” pretending that Democrats didn’t start the Civil War and found the KKK. But, they did. In a June 30 assertion USA Today rated “false,” the paper began, “Claim: The Democratic Party started the Civil War to preserve slavery and later the KKK.”
The entire article essentially conceded that the Confederacy was run by Democrats, made up by Democrats, as was the KKK. But don’t blame the Democratic Party for that! USA Today writer Devon Link calls the claim “an oversimplified trope about the Democratic Party.”
The article is made up of “yes, but…” concessions. Link squirmed, “Historians agree that although factions of the Democratic Party did majorly contribute to the Civil War's start and KKK's founding, it is inaccurate to say the party is responsible for either.”
She cites Princeton University Professor Tera Hunter to argue:
“At the core of the effort to discredit the current Democratic Party is the refusal to accept the realignment of the party structure in the mid-20th century,” Hunt said.
Hunter is a Barack Obama donor. So USA Today gets a Democratic donor to defend the party against its true, racist past. She then claimed:
However, historians say the party is not to blame.
“The short answer is that the Democratic Party did not start the Civil War,” Hunter said. “The war was initiated by Southern slaveholding states seceding from the United States.”
In 1860, every future Confederate state but Virginia and Tennessee voted Democrat. (None voted Republican.) Here's a map:
So, this is a flimsy distinction. Yes, the Democratic Party may not have officially started the Civil War, but the Confederacy was made up of strident Democrats.
Then there’s this spin:
Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Curator of Political and Military History, Jon Grinspan agreed with Hunter.
“A splinter of a splinter of a Democratic Party really contributed to the secession and the coming of the war,” he told USA TODAY. “It would be wrong to say the Democratic Party started the Civil War. It would be right to say some Democrats really contributed to the start of the Civil War.”
The Democratic Party didn’t push secession? Just… Democrats in general.
The KKK gets the same treatment: "Experts agree the KKK attracted many ex-Confederate soldiers and Southerners who opposed Reconstruction, most of whom were Democrats."
“The KKK is almost a paramilitary organization that’s trying to benefit one party. It syncs up with the Democratic Party, which really was a racist party openly at the time,” Grinspan said. “But the KKK isn’t the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party isn’t the KKK.”
So, to summarize, the Confederates were Democrats and the KKK was “mostly” Democratic. But, again, don't judge the Democrats. One of the KKK’s founding members was Confederate veteran Nathaniel Bedford Forrest. And he was a… Democrat.
Here’s how prominent 19th century writer Robert G. Ingersoll put it in a speech in 1876:
Every man that loved slavery better than liberty was a Democrat. The man that assassinated Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat. Every man that sympathized with the assassin -- every man glad that the noblest President ever elected was assassinated, was a Democrat. Every man that wanted the privilege of whipping another man to make him work for him for nothing and pay him with lashes on his naked back, was a Democrat. Every man that raised bloodhounds to pursue human beings was a Democrat.
(For more on the speech, go here.) Don’t tell that to the fact checkers at USA Today though. Apparently real history is “false” to them. No wonder many Americans dismiss liberal media "fact checks" as nothing more than Democratic Party propaganda.
For more of our fact checking the fact checkers, go here.