Donald Trump often boasts about his certainties, but he couldn’t say what he thought about an endorsement from extremist David Duke or how he felt about the KKK.
Trump first told reporters he didn’t know anything about Duke’s support and then curtly said: “All right, I disavow, OK?” Asked three days later about Duke, Trump said, “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. … I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.”
So, the Anti-Defamation League decided to help, providing Trump and other presidential candidates with a “list of racist individuals and extremist groups who have inserted themselves in the presidential campaign.”
“We are providing information to all of the campaigns to ensure that they steer clear of these extremists and others who promote anti-Semitism, racism and white supremacy,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “It is incumbent upon all candidates for office to reject and disavow any of these groups should they endorse or express support for their campaigns.”
ADL said each individual on its list voiced support for a presidential candidate seeking higher office.
The ADL list of extremists …
- David Duke. The former KKK leader and a virulent anti-Semite has asked supporters to back Trump. Duke has been active in the white supremacist movement for more than 40 years.
- Kevin MacDonald. The retired professor, notorious for anti-Semitism, has said electing Trump “may be the last chance for whites to elect a president who represents their interests.” MacDonald is a leader in the American Freedom Party.
- William Johnson. The head of the white supremacist American Freedom Party created the American National Super PAC, which funded robocalls supporting Trump, disparaging minorities and promoting white nationalism.
- Rachel Pendergraft. She is a spokeswoman for the Knights Party, a Klan group based in Arkansas, and says her groups use Trump’s candidacy as a “talking point” in feeling out potential recruits.
- Louis Farrakhan. He is the racist and anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam. In early March, he praised Trump as “the only member who has stood in front of (the) Jewish community and said, ‘I don’t want your money.’” He added, “Not that I’m for Mr. Trump, but I like what I’m looking at.”
- Andrew Anglin. He runs a neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, which is filled with racist and anti-Semitic articles.
- Lee Rogers. He runs a neo-Nazi website, Infostormer, which contains racist and anti-Semitic articles.
- Jared Taylor. He runs the white supremacist site American Renaissance, which features articles that purport to demonstrate the intellectual and cultural superiority of whites.
- Richard Spencer. He is the head of National Policy Institute, a small white supremacist think tank.
- Matthew Heimbach. He is a racist and anti-Semite who founded the white supremacist Traditionalist Youth Network.
- Don Black. He runs Stormfront, the largest white supremacist Internet forum.
HATE CRIMES RISING
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports the number of hate groups operating in the United States increased 14 percent from 2014 to 2015. Hate groups increased from 784 groups in 2014 to 892 last year.
The number of anti-government “patriot” groups also grew by 14 percent, from 874 in 2014 to 998.
“While the number of extremist groups grew in 2015 after several years of declines, the real story was the deadly violence committed by extremists in city after city,” stated Mark Potok, senior fellow at the national SPLC. “Whether it was Charleston, San Bernardino or Colorado Springs, 2015 was clearly a year of deadly action for extremists.”
Potok, in a news release, also said the bloodshed in 2015 “did little to dissuade some political figures from spouting incendiary rhetoric about minorities. In fact, they frequently exploited the anger and polarization across the country for political gain.”
— Lisa Neff
The Ku Klux Klan is planning an anti-immigration rally in the small town of Welcome, North Carolina, on Aug. 9. And civil rights advocates are planning to counter the hate group with a demonstration of their own.
The coalition planning the counter-protest includes GetEqual North Carolina, an LGBT group, and El Cambio, an immigrant rights group.
A statement from Get Equal said the organizers want to make clear that it is the Klan that isn’t welcome in Welcome, North Carolina.
The counter-protest is called “Hatred Not Welcome Here” and it will begin with a speak-out focusing on the impact of racism, homophobia and violence in North Carolina communities.
A statement from the groups said, “As immigrants and LGBT people, we have always valued the safety and survival of our communities. The Ku Klux Klan has been inciting terror toward oppressed groups in this country for over a century, and now they are turning their attention toward undocumented Americans, condoning physical violence and separation of families. Now is the time for our communities to join together to send a clear message that their hatred is not welcome in North Carolina. This rally is our community’s statement that we will no longer fall victim to hatred and violence — we are standing together to protect ourselves and our families, and to work to end hatred and discrimination whenever and wherever it arises.”
“To me, this action means a lot — we are letting the KKK and the town of Welcome know that we are all immigrants,” said Maura Pereira, 19, one of the organizers of the counter-protest. “Those who are coming to the U.S. are not here to steal our jobs but to be a part of America — a place where you can participate in the American dream and be treated with respect. Our truly welcoming community is strong, and we won’t allow any human to be treated inhumanely simply because of their immigration status.”
“I am angered and disappointed that groups like this still exist in our community,” Luis Aguilera, 20, lead organizer for GetEQUAL North Carolina, said of the KKK. “It feels like sometimes we are taking two steps forward and three steps back. We must defend ourselves and our community from living in fear of the hatred and intolerance being spewed out by groups like the KKK, and this counter-protest is a way of ensuring that we will bear witness to the love and inclusiveness of our community. We will not let fear overtake our lives or our communities.”
A dozen Republican U.S. senators have introduced legislation intended to allow organizations to discriminate against gay people.
The proposed Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, according to a news release from the office of right-wing Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, would bar “the government from denying any person or group tax-exempt status for exercising their religious conscience rights.”
The measure would accomplish this by allow organizations to refuse service or products to gay people by citing religious beliefs.
Lee said, “This bill protects the rights of individuals and organizations from religious discrimination by the federal government. Those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage deserve respect and tolerance. It is critical that we clarify the law to ensure that their fundamental civil liberties are not at risk.”
U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador introduced a similar bill, which has 92 co-sponsors.
The measures have the support of the U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops, National Organization For Marriage, Heritage Action, Concerned Women For America, The Ethics And Religious Liberty Commission Of The Southern Baptist Convention, Liberty Counsel Action and the Family Research Council, which has been characterized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The White House says it can’t fulfill a request to deem a group that protests at soldiers’ funerals a hate group. But it says President Barack Obama believes such actions are reprehensible.
The Obama administration is responding to petitions through the White House website to label theWestboro Baptist Church a hate group and revoke its tax-exempt status.
Almost 700,000 people signed five related petitions.
The group claims when American troops die, it’s God’s punishment for America tolerating homosexuality and abortion.
The White House says the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups. But it’s releasing a map showing where the petition-signers come from. The map shows high density in Kansas, where the Westboro group is based, and Connecticut, where church members threatened to picket Newtown victims’ funerals.
Westboro, founded by the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. in Topeka, responded to the news from the White House with a tweet exclaiming “glee” and an image of Obama as the “antichrist.”
The church operates a website called “GodHatesFags.com.”
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With the wave of enthusiasm for Barack Obama’s promise of hope and change came a second wave of conspiracy-minded, right-wing “patriot groups” that are growing in number and militancy.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., recently reported surging numbers of anti-government patriot groups that remind those at the civil rights organization of the mid-1990s, when Democrat Bill Clinton was president. That was the era of the Brady Bill, the assault weapon ban, and the religious cult showdown in Waco, Texas.
SPLC documented 149 active patriot or militia groups in 2008, the year Barack Obama was elected president. In 2011, SPLC identified 1,274 patriot groups. In 2012, the number climbed 7 percent to 1,360, including 321 militias. The number of patriot groups today exceeds by more than 500 the high-water number in the 1990s.
SPLC publishes annual counts and analyses of U.S. extremist groups. The counts include active, established groups – not lone “keyboard commandos,” said Heidi L. Beirich, director of the SPLC Intelligence Project.
Patriot groups are defined by the SPLC as opposing a “New World Order” and promoting anti-government doctrine and conspiracy theories.
Experts theorize that the revival of far-right, anti-government radicalism has been spurred by the economic recession, a Democratic administration, the first black president and intensifying debate about immigration, the environment and gun control. Accompanying the rise in militia groups are increasing calls for secession, nullification and civil war.
“The year that Obama was elected, we started to see these groups rise and rise and rise,” said Beirich, whose department consists of 15 staffers who read far-right publications, monitor websites, track events and activities and collect police reports.
There were 30 active anti-government groups in Wisconsin in 2012 – that’s a slight increase from the 26 identified in 2011. Several, including groups in Appleton and Milwaukee, are affiliates of the John Birch Society, an anti-communism, limited-government organization founded in 1958 by, among others, Fred Koch. The SPLC list also includes the Constitution Party in Milwaukee, the Northwoods Patriots in Eagle River, We the People, Southeast Wisconsin Volunteers, Northeast Wisconsin Militia, Badger State Volunteers and the Tenth Amendment Center.
Some of these groups self-describe as patriot groups or militias while others dispute the SPLC classification.
Several Wisconsin militia websites, for example, contain lists of weapons, ammunition and survival gear that members should have and urge visitors “to protect our property and families by any means necessary.”
But a post for the Badger State Volunteers states, “We are Constitutionalists, survivalists, self-sustainers, and educators plain and simple. We are NOT a religious group! …We are NOT a racially motivated group! We do not care about your color. We only care that you believe in the preservation of The Constitution of the United States of America.”
The anti-government crusade is one of three basic ideological movements in the far-right universe. The others are the fundamentalist movement that consists of Christian identity groups that fuse religious fundamentalism with white supremacy ideas and the racist or white supremacy movement, according Arie Perlinger, director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and author of the recent study “Challengers From the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far Right.”
The number of fundamentalist and white supremacist groups also remains at a near-record high. An expansion of hate group numbers began in 2000, a response to the country’s changing demographics.
“What is interesting about the hate group numbers is they were climbing at a rapid rate. …They’ve darn near doubled over the last decade,” said Beirich.
SPLC maintains a “hate map” on its website, a page where browsers can click on a state and see its number of extremist groups, as well as a list: 82 in California, 53 in Georgia, 62 in Texas, a handful in Maine and Vermont and 11 in Wisconsin, up from eight last year. The organizations are described as neo-Nazi, Christian identity, black separatist, racist skinhead, anti-gay and KKK. In Wisconsin, they can be found – perhaps not easily – in Mountain, Eau Claire, Milwaukee, New Berlin, Monroe and Shawano.
Beirich stressed that patriot groups are “entirely different” from hate groups, but “we often see people move between these groups.”
None of the groups on the far right advocate equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. Some advocate death sentences for gays, or internment or deportation.
“In general,” Beirich said, “all the groups we monitor are anti-LGBT. Unfortunately that is the dominant mode of thinking” on the far right.
She added that not all of the far right extremist organizations advocate violence, but some do.
And, said Perlinger, “since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating on the far right of American politics.” Perlinger said that right-wing violence from 2000-2011 surpassed right-wing violence in the 1990s by a factor of four.
His research shows that militia group attacks result in higher numbers of injuries and fatalities than attacks by other right-wing extremist groups, and militia groups are more likely than other extremist groups to use explosives and fire arms.
In another report, the Congressional Research Service identified more than two dozen domestic terrorist incidents since September 2001.
The surge in patriot groups prompted SPLC president and CEO J. Richard Cohen to write to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano with a warning.
Cohen began with a reminder that six months before the October 1994 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, the SPLC wrote to Attorney General Janet Reno about the growing threat of domestic terrorism.
“Today,” Cohen wrote, “we write to express similar concerns. In the last four years, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of conspiracy-minded anti-government groups as well as in the number of domestic terrorist plots. As in the period before the Oklahoma City bombing, we now also are seeing ominous threats from those who believe that the government is poised to take their guns.”
The SPLC asked the federal officials to establish an interagency task force to assess “the adequacy of resources devoted to responding to the growing threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism.”
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC and the author of the organization’s recent analysis on extremist groups, said, “We are seeing a real and rising threat of domestic terrorism as the number of far-right anti-government groups continues to grow at an astounding pace. It is critically important that the country take this threat seriously. The potential for deadly violence is real and clearly rising.”
To reach the Washington, D.C., hotel where he delivered a speech to right-wing extremists, Paul Ryan had to pass demonstrators waving signs that read, “The TV cameras are on. Fold the white sheets” and “Value love not hate.”
Inside the Omni Shoreham Hotel, the Wisconsin congressman and Republican vice presidential nominee hammered at Barack Obama on foreign affairs, health care, abortion, religious freedom and gay marriage before about 2,500 disciples of the Values Voter Summit, which was co-hosted by the Family Research Council and the American Family Association.
Both organizations have been labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a coalition of civil rights groups had urged Ryan and other public officials to skip the summit.
Civil rights leaders have characterized the annual event that began in 2006 as an extremist affair promoting hate rhetoric and recycling lies about Jews and Muslims, gays and Latinos – and also Democrats.
But for a Republican Party pitched to the right, the summit is seen as a must-do event on the political calendar, something of a second convention.
For civil rights activists outside the Omni, the issue was less about what Ryan said – which was predictable – and more about his appearance at a hate-group event.
“Congressman Ryan has long been on the very edge of the con servative Republican party,” said Nicole Safar, public policy director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.
“American Jews will feel a sense of profound disappointment that two of the most important Republicans in the country have chosen to address – and thus court and legitimize – some of America’s most extreme and deeply disturbing social conservatives at today’s Values Voter Summit,” said National Jewish Democratic Council CEO David A. Harris, referring to Ryan and U.S. Rep Eric Cantor of Virginia, who promoted “traditional marriage” in his remarks.
Harris noted FRC’s “infamous history of gay bashing, (as well as) anti-Muslim and intolerant statements, including disgustingly and directly linking homosexuality to the Holocaust. But equally concerning is the history of hate-filled toxic rhetoric that flows from many of its participants year after year. This is above and beyond one of the summit’s organizers’ calls for Jews to be converted to Christianity.”
FRC was launched in 1981 by James Dobson, who created it as a lobbying group tied to Focus on the Family, his early Christian right group formed to block LGBT civil rights efforts and reproductive freedoms.
FRC became its own entity in the early 1990s, with Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator, at the helm. Today FRC is a right-wing powerhouse that lobbies Congress and makes PAC contributions, including to Wisconsin’s Sean Duffy and Mark Neumann. According to Perkins, the group had enough influence to be given the job of writing the anti-gay marriage provisions that are contained in the Republican Party’s national platform.
But political positions didn’t earn FRC its hate group status, according to SPLC president Richard Cohen. The classification is based on the organization’s demonizing of LGBT people, spreading lies and misinformation about a class of people, to incite prejudice and hatred.
FRC “isn’t some policy shop that attempts to find constructive solutions to problems facing our society,” said Human Rights Campaign vice president Fred Sainz. “Tony Perkins wants you to believe that FRC is a family-focused advocacy organization, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The only thing FRC advocates for is the demonization of those who do not fit into their narrow worldview. They are a hate group that actively spreads blatant lies about LGBT people – with absolutely no regard for the impact of their harmful rhetoric.”
Both FRC and AFA, for example, advocate therapy to turn gays straight – a treatment that’s not supported by any credible medical or mental health organization.
At the 2011 Values Voter Summit, the AFA’s Bryan Fischer said the “homosexual agenda” is the nation’s “greatest immediate threat.” Perkins, opening this year’s summit, compared homosexuality to drug abuse. He also has said pedophilia is a “homosexual problem” and others at FRC have called for recriminalizing homosexuality.
In early September, the SPLC and HRC, along with People for the American Way, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, National Black Justice Coalition, National Council of La Raza and Faithful America, called on public officials not to attend the Values Voter Summit.
“Our message is a simple one,” Cohen said. “Public officials should not lend the prestige of their office to groups that spread demeaning and false propaganda about other people.”
The news events of the week – the killing of U.S. diplomats in Libya and escalating anti-American violence in the Middle East sparked over an anti-Islam video – dictated the substance of higher-profile speeches. Traditionally, the summit is devoted to challenging reproductive freedom, marriage equality and immigration reform.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, speaking mid-morning on Sept. 14, focused her ire on “radical Islamists … who seek to impose their set of beliefs on the rest of the world.” In an address about foreign affairs and national security, she remembered the Alamo and quoted Gen. Douglas Macarthur.
Ryan spoke during the same session, focusing much of his speech on the Obama administration’s handling of foreign affairs. But he also nodded at domestic issues. He boasted of Mitt Romney’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act on day one if he’s elected and said Barack Obama has sought to dictate Catholic Church policy on contraception.
To cheers, Ryan attacked Obama’s support for the right of women to terminate their pregnancies. “‘We’re all in this together’ – it has a nice ring,” he said. “For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious. Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born.”
In his only reference to LGBT issues, Ryan, who has a consistent anti-gay record, said, “We can be confident in the rightness of our cause, and also in the integrity and readiness of the man who leads it (Mitt Romney). He’s solid and trustworthy, faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best.”
The remarks rang familiar to those who have heard Ryan’s stump speech in recent weeks, and to those in the congressman’s home state.
Safar said that Ryan “would rather appeal to a narrow conservative political view than address the issues that women are facing every day in this country.”
She added, “To be clear, Congressman Ryan believes that politicians should ban abortion access – no exceptions, even when a woman will die or is the victim of rape or incest. This is a view that over two-thirds of voters consistently reject. President Obama is clearly on the side of the majority of voters and frankly the side of women when he says that politicians should not be involved in women’s medical decisions. Congressman Ryan is out of touch with what women in our country know: We don’t consult politicians when it comes to advice about mammograms or cancer screenings or treatment. Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy.”
In the week before the conference, the Values Voter website contained a long list of speakers – many confirmed, but some not, including Mitt Romney. Late in the week, after organizers indicated to the press that the candidate’s wife would speak, the Romney campaign said she had no such plan. Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who delivered prayers at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, also was a listed speaker but said he never planned to attend.
The summit did feature Ryan, Bachmann and Cantor, as well as:
• U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jim DeMint of South Carolina and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.
• TV actor Kirk Cameron.
• U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Steve King of Iowa and James Lankford of Oklahoma.
• Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona.
• U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas.
American Family Association leaders Tim Wildmon and Buddy Smith also had microphones, as did retired Lt. Col. Oliver North of Iran-Contra Affair fame and anti-choice activist Lila Rose, who has called for abortions to be performed in the public square.
Perkins said the summit is so popular with Republican officeholders that “we have a waiting list of those who want to speak. We’ve had to turn away members of Congress.”