Barr Rejects Racial Views of Group He
He Says He Had No Idea of Stands
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 12, 1998; Page A04
Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) yesterday disassociated himself
from the racial views of the Council
of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and said he had no idea
some of its leaders support segregation when he agreed to speak
to the group last June.
Barr, a conservative member of the House Judiciary
Committee, said in an interview that he went to the Charleston
meeting of the CCC at the request of Buddy Witherspoon, Republican
national committeeman for South Carolina. He said that if he had
had any notion of the views toward racial issues held by leaders
of the group -- some view intermarriage as a threat to the white
race -- he never would have attended the session.
Barr said the material he was supplied describing
the CCC indicated that it was a mainstream conservative grass-roots
group, and that it had endorsements from such political figures
as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Mississippi Gov.
Kirk Fordice (R) and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).
"The group does harbor some very unusual views
that neither I nor any member of Congress endorses," Barr said.
Gordon Lee Baum, the national chief executive
of the council, headquartered in St. Louis, said Barr was given
copies of the organization's magazine, the Citizen Informer, before
his speech. Most issues of the Informer have columns attacking
interracial marriage, warning that the white race faces the danger
"He knew what we were all about before he spoke
to us," Baum said. "We don't invite people and let them walk into
the dark on us."
Barr's appearance before the group was cited
by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, an opponent of President
Clinton's impeachment, in a recent complaint to Judiciary Committee
Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). Barr contended the disclosure was
politically motivated to discredit him as a leader of the drive
to impeach Clinton.
"It's more of the scorched-earth policy of attacking
members of the committee being undertaken by the administration
and its defenders," he told reporters during a break in the committee's
impeachment proceedings. He added: "It is no coincidence that,
days before a vote on impeachment, one of President Clinton's
most ardent supporters is falsely accusing me of harboring racist
Some officials of the CCC and some newspaper
articles have also described Lott as a member of the CCC. A spokesman
for Lott said the Senate leader "does not consider himself to
be a member of this group and has no firsthand knowledge of the
One of those identifying Lott as a member was
Mark Cerr, head of the National Capital branch of the CCC. Cerr
described Lott as an active member who has spoken to the group
in the past. A Gannett News Service story published a month ago
described Lott as "a member" of the CCC.
Cerr also disputed Barr's claim that he was not
aware of the views of CCC leaders and members. "Bob Barr knew
what we were," Cerr said in a phone interview.
Baum said he is also the Midwest director of
the Citizens Council, a group that opposed national desegregation
orders. "Our position is more or less synonymous to the NAACP.
We speak out for white European Americans," he said.
Cerr summarized his views this way. "I would
separate the races by having non-Europeans sent back to the Third
World," he said. Cerr, who was born in Northern Ireland, said
the United States "was founded by my people, British people, not
by Asians or Indians or Negroes, and we are going to take it back."
Cerr said that just before Barr spoke at the
Charleston meeting, the racial views of some of the members were
made explicit at a "youth panel" chaired by columnist Sam Francis.
"Barr sat through that," said Cerr.
Barr confirmed that he heard the youth panel
discussion. He said it "gave me serious pause," but he decided,
"I was there and I would speak to them and leave."
Barr disputed assertions by Baum that he was
given material that showed the racial views held by some of the
leaders and members of the CCC.
Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to
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