Both Sides with Jesse Jackson

Gordon Baum Discusses the Council of Conservative Citizens

Aired on CNN Domestic, January 24, 1999, 5:30-6:00 p.m. EST
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(THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.  THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED).

Jesse Jackson

JESSE JACKSON, HOST: Welcome to BOTH SIDES.  The impeachment of President Clinton has produced several subplots. One involves an organization that, until recently, relatively few people had ever heard of. The Council of Conservative Citizens has reached out to a number of politicians, including those who have key roles in the president's trial, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Impeachment Manager Bob Barr. That's put the group's controversial views under greater scrutiny.  Joining me today to talk about his organization is the Council of Conservative Citizens' chief executive officer, Gordon Baum.  Welcome, Gordon.

GORDON BAUM, COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVE CITIZENS: Thank you for having us, Reverend Jackson, so we, hopefully, can set the record straight.

JACKSON: We'll begin our discussion in a moment, but first this view, a report from John Bisney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BISNEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Council of Conservative Citizens describes itself as a typical grassroots political organization. But after a decade of existing in relative obscurity, the group, and its chief executive officer, Gordon Baum, find themselves in the national spotlight, primarily because of their views on race.

BAUM: I think you'd have a pretty difficult time finding anybody in academia that would dispute the basis theory of "The Bell Curve," which is that the average white has an I.Q. of what, 100, 102 and the average black has an I.Q. of 85.

BISNEY: Critics say the CCC, which claims 15,000 members nationwide, is a product of the now defunct White Citizens Councils which were established in Mississippi during the 1950s and '60s to fight desegregation. Since starting a decade ago, the CCC has developed ties with such prominent politicians as Mississippi's Governor Kirk Fordice (ph). But it's the group's questionable relationship with two national Republican law makers, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, that has brought the CCC to its current notoriety.  Both Lott and Barr have addressed the group and both have tried to distance themselves from the CCC since reports surfaced about their appearances. While the CCC embraces a number of mainstream conservative causes, lower taxes and less government, its opponents consider the group dangerous.

ABRAHAM FOXMAN, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: It is a racist and anti- Semitic group which has decided to camouflage its true agenda under a cover of conservatism.

BISNEY: The Council claims the controversy of Trent Lott's and Bob Barr's association with the group is increasing membership and that has opponents concerned that the CCC influence on the national political scene may rise, as well.

For BOTH SIDES, I'm JOHN BISNEY.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JACKSON: Welcome.

Gordon Baum, you head the CCC, the Council of Conservative Citizens...

BAUM: Actually, Reverend Jackson, it's the, the acronym is the C of CC.

JACKSON: C of CC?

BAUM: Yes, sir. It's the Council of Conservative Citizens.

JACKSON: Well, Senator Trent Lott and Congressman Bob Barr spoke to your organization and when it was made public they ran for cover. And the head of the Republican committee has asked all members to disassociate themselves because your organization has racist views. How, what's your response to that?

BAUM: Well, the first place, part of the introduction that you just played has some major errors in it. We are not an outgrowth of the Citizens Council. They were never known, Reverend Jackson, as the White Citizens Council. It was the Citizens Councils of America. They were in existence for probably five years after this organization was established.  It is true in the South that a considerable number of members of the old Citizens Councils in the South joined in and became part of the Council of Conservative Citizens but we were not an outgrowth of it.  As far as us being anti-Semitic, there's not a word of truth to that. The major reporter that's written eight articles about us for the "Washington Post" will tell you quickly that he has found no hint or stain of anti-Semitism. We have, we don't know who all of our members are. We have way more than 15,000. We have an application that asks for the name, address and telephone number. We have members in every state of the union and in five, six foreign countries and...

JACKSON: But this point that Trent Lott and Barr seem to be reaction to, that your organization is racist and they're running for cover and you said that you look at the I.Q., between blacks and whites there is a significant distinction and "The Bell Curve" is not at fault. Are those your real views?

BAUM: Well, actually, the organization's never taken a position on that. They asked me for my personal opinion and I gave them my personal opinion, which is not necessarily the opinion of the organization.

JACKSON: And your personal opinion is that blacks have a lower I.Q. than whites?

BAUM: No, my personal opinion, I'm a lawyer, I'm not an applied psychologist or psychiatrist. I'm not a tester. I'm not an academic. What I am is a lawyer. But I have did a little reading on it and my understanding was "The Bell Curve," which was hardly written by right- wing racists, this was a major book published by two professors, probably, they were probably pretty liberal. And from what they've said and what I've read subsequently it appears that among academia that general view is that there is racial differences in I.Q. and it's large.

JACKSON: All right, now so you gave...

BAUM: But that doesn't mean, Reverend Jackson, that there's no brilliant black people or there's no stupid white people. If I'm not mistaken, I think the, for instance, the Asian people even have, the northern Asian people even have a higher I.Q. than whites. Now, we could argue all day and night...

JACKSON: But I really don't want to argue race theory. I just want to let 'em come out. In your group's quarterly newsletter, "The Citizens Informer," the editor, Fred Jennings, asks if it is legally and morally wrong for the government to force a mixing of the races to produce a mongrel race. What is your response to that?

BAUM: I think it's a valid question. I don't think he said that you shouldn't. I think the question he proposed is one that people would like to know. We won't back away from that. I'm not saying that it's good or bad. See, the organization itself, we have never taken a position on segregation. We have never taken a position on racial inferiority or superiority. That's nonsense.  What we do become involved in, Reverend Jackson, are very specific issues. We have active chapters in 26 states and most of our activity is at the local state level. We are not like a church where we have an overall theology that addresses every question known to man and God. We take on specific issues.

JACKSON: But the point I'm trying to get to, you took a position about the I.Q. differential between blacks and whites...

BAUM: No, I didn't take a...

JACKSON: ... your own personal position.

BAUM: No, I didn't take a position. I was asked a question.

JACKSON: I understand.

BAUM: And I answered that.

JACKSON: And Fred Jennings took a position...

BAUM: Well, he made, no, he made an inquiry that was an inquiry out of 28 years of writing that newspaper, which literally is not part of the C of CC, but it's a legitimate question. Out of 28 years of writing editorials, he had that one, that's all they could find, that he said is that politically incorrect to make that statement? He doesn't write that every issue in the paper.

JACKSON: But is not that position, was that position denounced?

BAUM: No, it's not denounced. It's an inquiry. People have a right...

JACKSON: Well, another columnist on C of CC's Web site said that if whites continue to allow heavy immigration and racial mixing, they will become part of a slimy brown mass of glop.

BAUM: OK, we denounced...

JACKSON: Is that racist?

BAUM: Well, I don't know if it's racist or not. In the first place, the man that wrote that is not a member. We have a Web site that's quite large. His writings have never been in our newspaper. But apparently he has a column that runs in a lot of local publications around the country. I understand he's from California. Our web masters, all of whom are volunteers, put that up there and they didn't understand that they could have editorial discretion to remove offensive clauses like that thing.

JACKSON: Well, we're just trying to get some sense of...

BAUM: But that is not -- let me finish. That gentleman's writing is not endorsed. We have in the newspaper and on the Web site as well an announcement that the views presented here are not necessarily those of the organization or the paper.

JACKSON: What I'm trying to establish here, Gordon, is that since relatively few people know about your organization but it's such a big news topic now, kind of where do you come from, what are your points of view?

BAUM: Right.

JACKSON: We're going to come back in just a few moments and ask about the relationship between Senator Trent Lott and Congressman Barr and the C of CC. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JACKSON: We're talking with Gordon Baum, CEO of the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Gordon, is it true that you used former members of the Citizens Council of Mississippi to form your organization?

BAUM: Well, there were some, yes, Reverend Jackson. They were members of the Citizens Councils of America. There was a number of others that were in the initial meeting about 10, 12 years ago from a variety of organizations, conservative organizations in the South.

JACKSON: So Trent Lott did know who you were before the media exposed it?

BAUM: I'm not sure what Senator Lott knew or didn't know. I'm still not sure what he knows or doesn't know. I don't know how perceptive he is, Reverend Jackson. I mean he did attend our national meeting back in 1992. He did, in fact, meet with a delegation of our people in his office and he did, in fact, speak at a couple of the local meetings, but I don't know how perceptive people are, if they understand this is all the same thing. It's difficult to imagine that he didn't, but then again, who knows?

JACKSON: The reason I raise these very basic questions, Gordon, is because people want to know about your organization. The head of the Senate has spoken for you several times, apparently, and Bob Barr. Did you say or your organization believe that the white race is being threatened by immigration or integration?

BAUM: By, not by integration so much as by immigration. Yes, we do hold that view. We are of the opinion that what we are looking for in this country, what's possible -- don't forget, our president boasted that within a short time this will be a majority non-white country. And the question that then goes begging is will we then become a Third World country or will we remain a European country? And this isn't to say that the people that are here that are of non- European descent shouldn't have every right to participate. They belong in our organization.  We have people from the, ancestry came from the orient, etc., that are members, active in some cases. But nevertheless, even they are of the same like mind that we don't want to see a Balkanization in the United States like you have what's going on in Yugoslavia.

JACKSON: You know, the original majority was Native American and then Europeans and then Africans and so we really are a multiracial, multicultural society. No one group can say it's their country. It's our country.

BAUM: Well, it's different, Reverend Jackson, what occurred before because all of these aforementioned groups you've mentioned were all commingled within the same geographic area. What you have now occurring, for instance let's take the Southwest. In the Southwest, the dominant organization, what I've read in the newspaper, the major group is called La Raza, which means "the race," and I'm sure you're fully aware of this as well.

There is a lot of agitation among people, among the Chicanos, which I understand is the preferred term for people from Mexico, that they would like to see some form of autonomy, perhaps even independence. There are groups that are mixed in with La Raza that advocate that.  Now, we're looking at what's happening to our neighbors to the north in Quebec. You can see the real danger that lurks, possibly lurks in the future.

JACKSON: You think that's the real problem in America, that we could have that kind of problem?

BAUM: Yes, sir, because you no longer hear the terminology, Jesse, about a melting pot. Now you're talking about multiculturalism, where we can live side by side. But unfortunately, I don't care if you're in Europe or in Africa or Asia, you see that this does not seem to work. This is the turmoil that's going on all across the world where you have different cultural groups that are struggling for autonomy from one another. That's...

JACKSON: But is not America's richness in its diversity? I mean...

BAUM: But that's because...

JACKSON: ... the very idea, Gordon, of give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of many races, many faces from many places, is that not the special genius of America?

BAUM: Well, perhaps, to a degree. But don't forget the overwhelming consensus among all the leaders until recently was that we were going to merge these people all into one more or less homogenous culture. And it was referred to, as we both know, as the melting pot.   Well, you no longer hear that terminology much anymore, except from white liberals who dream of it.

JACKSON: But the Citizens Council in Mississippi did not want it to be a melting pot. They were fighting to maintain rigid segregation. They wanted to be black-white, they really fought for legal apartheid and they lost that struggle.

BAUM: Well, I don't want to answer for the Citizens Councils because we are the Council of Conservative Citizens. It's not the same organization. I will say this in their defense, that not everybody involved in the Citizens Council were necessarily for segregation. A lot of these people just believed in the 10th Amendment. As we both know, under the 10th Amendment, education should have been, according to the founding fathers, left to the states, and I think a great deal of the argument was that it wasn't so much opposition to a white child or a black child sitting next to one another, but it was the idea that the federal government should not be the one to demand it.  We have seen now...

JACKSON: Well, somehow, Baum, in the end states' rights did not come up to the level of equal protection under the law for all citizens.

BAUM: Well, but that...

JACKSON: We're going to come right back and finish this in just a few moments. We're talking with Gordon Baum, who is the CEO of the Conservative Council.  We'll talk right back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JACKSON: Welcome back.

Baum, some of your members say that the attack by Nicholson challenging Republican Party leaders to not be a part of your organization goes to the heart of the strength of the new Republicans in the South, the Reagan Republicans and the George Wallace Democrats. Is that your basic view about the attacks on your organization?

BAUM: Actually, I think it's very foolish, stupid, if you would, Reverend Jackson, this attack. The Wallace-Reagan Democrats that were brought out of the Democratic Party, which are a lot of your real Southerners and your people around the big cities in the North, they came into the Republican Party, Reagan brought 'em into the Republican Party, and they're usually referred to as Reagan Democrats.  This is the heart and soul of the Republican Party and if the Republican Party thinks they can abandon these people and their concerns and add to them other folks and build a huge majority, they're sadly mistaken. What the...

JACKSON: But Gordon, this, the Reagan Republican, Wallace Democrats, they did not support a public accommodations bill or the right to vote or gender equality and if you are associated with that thinking, then that is not really joining the mainstream of America.

BAUM: Well, I'm not so sure I would categorize it as such. Really, the issues today are not those. Those have all been decided by law. Those are not issues. The issues today are affirmative action, quotas, immigration, Section 8 housing, you know, forced busing, which has now been totally discredited, and these are the issues today. I mean, I don't really want to address issues of the years gone by because that's not what it's about today.   Are there folks that are among the Wallace-Reagan Democrats that supported views you just stated? Probably some of 'em. But I don't know if you could, I don't know if you honestly could say this, don't forget that there was a lot of these people in the North. They're not all Southerners.

JACKSON: Of course, it's not all Southern. Let me ask you another question. You say you are an admirer of George Wallace. What about him did you admire?

BAUM: What did I admire of George Wallace? In the first place, I don't think George Wallace was a racist. I think he got a bad tag. I think George Wallace was a very astute man, ahead of his time and I think that George Wallace was a very intelligent man. I saw him when I was in law school debate four professors and eat 'em alive, enough so that my, right across the street from the studio where I'm sitting our common law professor said it must have been rigged so he would have looked good.  I think George Wallace articulated a message that many Americans -- and it had nothing to do with race in the sense of wanting to put black people down, which we do not support. We have black members. We're not in favor of depriving anyone of their rights and I don't believe George Wallace was. Again, the man has passed away and I think that it was pretty evident, though, that what he primarily was saying, we don't need a federal big brother and I think...

JACKSON: But Gordon, as we keep pursuing this line of thought, what are your thoughts about President Clinton? Did you support him, A, should he go or should he stay?

BAUM: On that particular question, first, the attack on us has everything to do, Reverend Jackson, with Clinton. A professor from Harvard had got into it with Bob Barr and insisted that Bob Barr had referred to him as not a real American, which is not what he said. He said you don't speak for real America. And then this attack upon Barr and Trent Lott, in our opinion, has been orchestrated simply to undercut these gentlemen, to try to help President Clinton remain as president.  Now, no, our people by and large...

JACKSON: So am I to gather that you are a Clinton supporter?

BAUM: No. I'd doubt if very many of our members were.

JACKSON: We'll be right back to finish this conversation with Gordon Baum, head of the C of CC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JACKSON: We're in our final segment with Gordon Baum of the Council of Conservative Citizens. In that list of items you said that are priorities today, bussing, affirmative action, quotas, are all kind of racially charged terms. You didn't mention, for example, the abounding poverty in Appalachia and in the delta of Mississippi and Arkansas or securing Social Security or 500,000 Americans die every year from cancer. These are issues of great, broad-based concern, you missed all that and focused on these racially charged issues.

BAUM: Well, no. Those were just a summation of a few of the racially charged issues which people have focused on. Actually, like in our newspaper, Jesse, only about a third of our articles would cover issues that could be considered as to have racial over tones. Two thirds of our efforts at the local level and at the national level as well have nothing to do with racial issues. We are not a racial organization such as the NAACP is.

JACKSON: Gordon...

BAUM: We are about taxation. We're in favor of the little people. We're involved in just a multitude of issues primarily dealing with welfare reform and taxation and so forth that have nothing to do with race.

JACKSON: But Gordon, just before we close today, and I thank you for sharing with us, what national politician could you support today? There's Dan Quayle, there is Bush. There are these names out there. Which national politician could you support today for president?

BAUM: Are you talking about me personally? The organization doesn't support candidates, Jesse.

JACKSON: All right, you.

BAUM: Me personally? I haven't heard him declare, but I think Pat Buchanan probably comes fairly close to us on some of the social and cultural issues. I think...

JACKSON: Who else would be in that circle for you? Pat Buchanan and who else?

BAUM: Probably, he's acknowledged he's not going to run, is our senator, junior senator from here in Missouri, John Ashcroft. Of the others, it's difficult to say. Most of 'em we don't know a whole lot about 'em at this stage. I don't think most conservatives are as locked into the Republican Party as the Republicans would think they are. I think that we saw this happen in the last election where these people have an option. They can vote third party, which a lot of 'em do, or they can go back and vote Democrat or they can stay home. And I think that's what the Republicans forget, Jesse.

JACKSON: Well, Gordon, let me thank you for this conversation today. It's good to be able to explore your organization and your views. I'm sure we'll be hearing much more from you and your organization in the future. That's all for this week's program. I'll be back next Sunday at 5:30 P.M. Eastern. Thanks for watching and keep hope alive.

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