Clinton says Byrd joined KKK to help him get elected

Former President Bill Clinton explained the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.V.) membership in the Ku Klux Klan Friday by claiming Byrd was simply trying to get elected.

Speaking at Byrd's funeral in Charleston today, Clinton seemed to criticize newspaper eulogies that dwelled on Byrd's association with the Klan.

"They mention that he once had a fleeting association with the Ku Klux Klan, and what does that mean? I'll tell you what it means," Clinton said. "He was a country boy from the hills and hollows of West Virginia. He was trying to get elected. And maybe he did something he shouldn't have done, and he spent the rest of his life making it up. And that's what a good person does. There are no perfect people. There certainly are no perfect politicians."

Byrd joined the KKK in 1942 and was elected leader of his local chapter. Byrd later claimed to have become "disinterested" after about a year.

Byrd vigorously opposed the integration of the military, and wrote in 1946 that the KKK was "needed today as never before."