GOP Chairman Denounces 'Racist' Group

By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 20, 1999; Page A04

Nicholson Urges Party Members to Resign From Council of Conservative Citizens

Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson yesterday called on Republicans who are members of the Council of Conservative Citizens to resign from the group, which was founded by leaders of the segregationist White Citizens Council.

"It appears this group does hold racist views," Nicholson said in a statement. "The Republican Party rejects and condemns such views forcefully and without hesitation or equivocation."

The GOP chairman made a specific appeal to a South Carolina national committeeman to leave the council. "It has come to my attention that an RNC member, Buddy Witherspoon, is a member of the CCC. I have urged Mr. Witherspoon to resign from that group and I will continue to use my good offices to persuade Mr. Witherspoon that a member of the party of [Abraham] Lincoln should not belong to such an organization."

Witherspoon, a South Carolina orthodontist who is a member of the state branch of the Council of Conservative Citizens, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he "would not resign until I have the opportunity to talk with them," referring to his fellow council members. (The group plans to meet near Columbia at the end of the month.) He said he has no knowledge of some of the controversial racial views of the organization's leaders and has not seen the material on the council's web site.

In addition to Witherspoon, another prominent South Carolina Republican, state Rep. Charles Sharpe, is a member of the council.

Bill Lord, Mississippi senior field officer of the council, said 34 members of the state legislature there are members, and most, but not all, are Democrats.

Gordon Lee Baum, the national CEO of the Council of Conservative Citizens and former Midwest director of the White Citizens Council, denounced Nicholson: "He doesn't know what he is talking about."

Baum said that Nicholson is alienating key GOP voters: "The Wallace-Reagan Democrats are the ones who made the Republicans have enough votes to win," Baum said. "Without the Wallace-Reagan Democrats, the Republicans aren't going to have near the voting strength."

Baum contended Nicholson and other party leaders "are doing a pretty good job running them [white, working-class voters] off . . . Sometimes it's remarkable how dumb they are. They let the liberal media run their campaigns. They apparently don't even know why these people vote Republican half the time."

The Council of Conservative Citizens first gained national attention in December, when it was disclosed that Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, had spoken to the organization at its summer meeting in Charleston. Further news stories revealed that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) had spoken a number of times to the council and met with the group's Mississippi and national leaders in Washington.

Lott recently has renounced the group, and Baum warned that the majority leader could pay a political price in his home state. "It could be [there will be a backlash], if he keeps it up, if he keeps distancing himself from everything. A sizable segment knows the truth, that we are very much in tune with the people of Mississippi on most issues," Baum said.

Baum says that his organization is a mainstream conservative group opposed to quotas, forced busing and other racial policies. Yet the group aggressively promotes the controversial views of its leaders. For example, "H. Millard," a columnist published by the council's Web site, wrote that if whites continue to allow heavy immigration and racial mixing, they will become part of "a slimy brown mass of glop."

In the group's quarterly newsletter, the Citizens Informer, the editor, Fred Jennings, wrote in 1997: "Is it racist to say that it is legally and morally wrong for government to force a mixing of the races to produce a mongrel race?"

Nicholson, in his statement, called on Democratic National Committee Chairman Roy Romer to call on Democrats to get out of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Romer said yesterday that the council "is an organization that should not get the support of any person who believes in democracy in this country."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company