Lott's Odd Friends
Lott and the Southern Neo-Confederate
By Colbert I. King
Saturday, December 19, 1998; Page A25
When the Senate convenes in January, its first
order of business should be to review Majority Leader Trent
Lott's fitness to serve as guiding light of the world's
most deliberative body. You heard it right. Before the senior
senator from Mississippi sits in judgment of anybody, most of
all the president, Lott's colleagues ought to pass fresh judgment
The need for a closer look arises from recent
articles by Post reporter Thomas Edsall on Georgia Republican
Rep. Robert Barr's keynote address to the Council
of Conservative Citizens, a white "racialist" group that,
among other things, publishes anti-black screeds capable of making
bigots weak in the knees with delight. And Barr isn't alone. Lott
and the council have kept company, too.
Barr's link with the council was first disclosed
by Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz during the House Judiciary
Committee's impeachment hearing. Barr initially screamed like
a stuck pig, claiming he knew nothing about the council's alleged
racist and antisemitic agenda. He only schmoozed it up with council
members at their meeting, said Barr, because the group enjoyed
the blessings of other big-name southern conservatives, including
Trent Lott, whom the council presses to the bosom as one of its
Lott, now at the peak of his GOP legislative
career and recognizing a banana peel when he sees one, demonstrated
the public relations smoothness that helped get him where he is
today by swiftly denying through a spokesman any council membership.
Lott has "no firsthand knowledge of the group's views," said the
spokesman. Would that those words had been uttered under oath.
No sooner had Lott freed himself from the group
than the head of the council's national capital branch, Mark Cerr,
embraced the senator as an active member who had spoken to the
group in the past. And guess what? The Post next produced a copy
of the group's newsletter, Citizens Informer, with who else but
Lott on the front page delivering a suck-up speech to a council
gathering in Greenwood, Miss., in 1992. Lott told those staunch
proponents of preserving the white race from immigration, intermarriage
and "the dark forces" that are overwhelming America that the council
"stand[s] for the right principles and the right philosophy."
Lott spokesman John Czwartacki told me this week
that the '92 event was just another case of a politician delivering
a stump speech to a local group of unknown political pedigree
-- no big deal. What's more, after being confronted with evidence
of the 1992 speech and the group's views, Lott renounced the council
and said he won't truck with the likes of them now or henceforth
Well, not so fast.
If, as it is now being argued in Lott's behalf,
the majority leader is not comfortable with xenophobic, race-baiting
bigots, when did he first grow suspicious and really start keeping
his distance from the group? Because contrary to claims that he
participated in the council event in '92 because he didn't know
any better, they seem to have been keeping company for some time.
On my desk is a copy of a page from the 1997
Citizens Informer with a smiling Trent Lott pictured meeting in
his Washington office with council national officers William D.
Lord Jr., president Tom Dover and CEO Gordon Lee Baum. Lord and
Baum were also in the '92 photo. And who is Lord? The Post reports
Lord was a regional organizer for the southern-based segregationist
Citizen Councils. In the '60s, white Citizen Council members shared
the Ku Klux Klan's views on civil rights but tended to speak and
dress better and not slink around after dark in white hoods.
So much could be said about the Council of Conservative
Citizens. But let's let Citizens Informer, the group's Web site
and its other documents speak for themselves:
"Given what has come out in the press about Mr.
Clinton's alleged [sexual] preferences, and his apparent belief
that oral sex is not sex one wonders if perhaps Mr. Clinton isn't
America's first liberal black president. . . . His beliefs are
actually a result of his inner black culture. Call him an Oreo
turned inside out" (H. Millard, 1998).
"Life Magazine, the glossy photo album of folksy
liberals, has been enlarging depraved miscreants like John F.
Kennedy and Martin Luther King into national heroes for decades"
"The most important issue facing us is the continued
existence of our people, the European derived descendants of the
founders of the American nation. As immigration fills our country
with aliens, we risk being disposed and, ultimately displaced
"A Formal Protest of the [Arthur] Ashe Statue
unveiling ceremony will be held on the site of a Confederate Fortification
with Battle Flags. . . . Those with confederate battle flags will
assemble behind the statue. . . . Come early and dress formal
(coat and tie) No racial slurs please" (Richmond Chapter, June
"Black rule in South Africa a total failure."
"The increase of crime and barbarism in South Africa is nothing
more than the emergence of the African ethos, so long submerged
by strong pre-deKlerk National Party governments" (Citizens Informer,
"The Jews' motto is 'never forget, and never
forgive.' One can't agree with the way they've turned spite into
welfare billions for themselves, but the 'never forget' part is
very sound" ("A Southern View," Citizens Informer, 1997).
"Our liberal establishment is using the media
of television to promote racial intimacy and miscegenation. .
. . all of the news teams on the major networks have black and
white newscasters of opposite sexes" (Citizens Informer, 1998).
And as for Trent Lott's view of the council before
the Citizens Informer article appeared in Edsall's story? A 1995
council promotional mailer quotes Lott: "America needs a national
organization to mobilize conservative, patriotic citizens to help
protect our flag, Constitution and other symbols of freedom."
Trent Lott's column regularly appears in the
Informer newsletter (including its most recent issue in 1998)
along with the publication's offensive racial columns and articles.
However, Lott's spokesman said it would be wrong to associate
his boss's noncontroversial and businesslike column, which is
widely distributed, with the repugnant views and materials published
by the council. Fair enough.
But has Lott really kept his distance from the
council -- or are the ties long-running and cozy? And if the relationship
is ended, when did he do it, and how clean is the break? Before
hearing the case against Bill Clinton, the Senate and the country
need to hear Republican majority leader Trent Lott's case for
The writer is a member of the editorial page
� Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company