Leader Defends Conservative Group from
Charges of Racism
By Scott Canon
The Kansas City Star, January
24, 1999, 10:15PM
© The Kansas City Star
Gordon Lee Baum opens conversations these days
with a protest.
"We are not monsters," he says, his
speech quickening in agitation. "They're trying to make us
out as ogres."
Indeed, his Council of Conservative Citizens emerged
recently as an ideological skeleton lurking in the closets of
two Republicans who figure prominently in the effort to remove
President Clinton from office.
That increasing scrutiny of the St. Louis group,
Baum insists, reeks of guilt by association that overstates the
council's racial ideas in order to tar politicians involved in
the impeachment effort.
"We're not white supremacists," he says.
"We are pro-European Americans. We are pro-white."
Read racist, say critics, including the Republican
Columnists in the CCC's newspaper, the Citizens
Informer, have described interracial marriage as "an
effort to destroy Western civilization." Writers on the group's
Web site ridicule Martin Luther King Jr. as a "liar"
and "sex addict," proclaim Confederate Gen. Robert E.
Lee as history's greatest American and worry that nonwhite immigrants
will make the country "a slimy brown mass of glop."
Yet, especially in the South, the group mingles
regularly with political powerbrokers. U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, one
of the House managers of Clinton's Senate trial, has spoken at
a national meeting of the group. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent
Lott of Mississippi spoke at CCC meetings on several occasions.
The CCC led the successful effort to keep the
Confederate flag waving over the South Carolina state capitol.
Its annual rallies in Black Hawk, Miss., have drawn Lott, plus
the state's Republican governor and Democratic attorney general.
"They have a several-year track record of
successfully marrying the white supremacist fringe types with
local and state Republican politicians and thereby having an influence
in the mainstream discourse," said Leonard Zeskind, a Kansas
City author who has received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation
for his research on right-wing groups.
After recent articles appeared in The Washington
Post and The New York Times noting their presence at
CCC gatherings, Lott and Barr said they did not know what the
group's views were.
Recently Republican National Committee Chairman
Jim Nicholson urged party leaders to resign from the CCC. Buddy
Witherspoon, a national party member from South Carolina, has
resisted that call.
But at RNC headquarters, there's no fudging in
the denunciation of the group.
"It appears that the group does have racist
views," said RNC spokesman Mark Pfeifle. "The Republican
Party rejects and condemns such views very forcefully and without
At the CCC's headquarters in St. Louis, Baum greets
the repudiation with a disappointed chuckle.
"They've baited the RNC into something stupid
here," said Baum, the group's chief executive officer. "It's
like they've decided to chase off the Wallace-slash-Reagan Democrats....
It's like they're saying, `Let's get rid of the angry white guys.'
The CCC is a philosophical successor to the "citizens
councils," made up primarily of white businessmen, that sprouted
across the South in the 1950s and 1960s in opposition to the civil
Baum and about 30 others formed the group in Atlanta
in 1985. That core group, Baum said, included people who belonged
to the old citizens councils. But this new organization was designed
to focus on a broader range of conservative causes that included
support of tighter immigration, stronger states' rights and opposition
to gun control, forced busing and affirmative action.
The national CCC set up shop in St. Louis because
that's where Baum has a law practice. The CCC has active chapters
in 28 states -- throughout all of the former Confederacy and border
states -- including two chapters in eastern Missouri. There is
no chapter in Kansas City, although Baum said he has members here.
More than 15,000 people pay annual dues of $25
or more to the CCC, Baum said. He said the group has members on
school boards and city councils. More than two dozen state legislators
in Mississippi belong to the group, Baum said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center published a paper
in December saying the CCC has ties to Ku Klux Klan leader David
Duke and a variety of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.
Zeskind said the CCC plays the role of a "bridge
group" that connects openly racist right-wing groups to pragmatic
While Zeskind saw no evidence suggesting the CCC
holds the violent views or intentions of racist groups such as
the neo-Nazi Aryan Nation, its perspectives on race are much the
The literature distributed by the CCC clearly
advocates at least a separation of the races. But Baum notes that
it has never taken a position on formal segregation.
The columnist who wrote about nonwhites making
the country "a slimy brown mass of glop" was "out
of bounds," Baum said. But he said the same writer, H. Millard,
appropriately criticized interracial marriage.
"(A) genocide being carried out against white
people hasn't come with marching enemies," Millard wrote
on the CCC's Web site. "Instead it has come with propaganda
that is calculated to brainwash whites into willingly jumping
into the Neo-Melting Pot... Genocide via the bedroom chamber is
just as long-lasting as genocide via the gas chamber."
That sort of outlook prompted the Southern Poverty
Law Center to conclude "the CCC has racism at its core."
It's not racism, Baum said, just a desire to preserve
a "white" America.
"We want to keep this," he said, "a
predominantly European country."