Rep. Clyburn Wants Conservative Citizens Spurned

By Steve Piacente
Charleston Post and Courier, Wednesday, February 3, 1999, page B6
© Copyright 1999 Charleston.Net

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn on Tuesday urged the House to condemn "the racism and bigotry espoused" by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a controversial group based in St. Louis that has apparent ties to key Republican congressional leaders.

But Democrat Clyburn, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and South Carolina's first African-American congressman since Reconstruction, said his larger target is GOP leaders who have fostered an atmosphere that has allowed the re-emergence of white supremacist groups.

"I think these people have raised their ugly heads because of the climate that was created in the House and is now being perpetuated in the Senate," Clyburn said. "It's much bigger than these little guys floating around out there.

"The Klan never could have flourished without the tacit support of the powers that be," Clyburn said. "What we're saying is we're not going to allow the leadership of the House and the Senate to turn its back and let this climate exist."

It is uncertain when Clyburn's resolution, introduced with Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., will be debated in the House, but it drew quick criticism from Gordon Lee Baum, chief executive officer of the council, and Frances Bell, chair of its S.C. chapter.

"We have no connection with the Ku Klux Klan," Baum said in a telephone interview from St. Louis. "We're not white supremacists. We're getting a little tired of this ridiculous stuff."

Baum said the group serves as "an advocate for the no longer silent conservative majority," and opposes "reverse discrimination and racial quotas," "forced busing," and efforts such as "tearing down the Confederate flag and monuments in the South, removal of Christmas displays, and rewriting of our history."

A membership application says the group also favors stricter immigration controls, tax cuts and "combating crime with swift punishment, limited appeals, stiffer sentences (and) capital punishment when appropriate."

The council's Web site (http://www.cofcc.org) says recent publicity spurred by news accounts about speeches made before the group by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., one of the House impeachment trial managers, "has been fantastic."

"People are going to a great deal of trouble to find us," Baum added.

The Web site also mentions two instances, last year and in 1994, when council members "successfully countered" demonstrators in South Carolina who favored removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse.

"That flag means a lot to me personally," said state chairman Bell of Windsor, S.C., who recently retired after a 25-year career in the composing, production and advertising departments of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"I had a great-grandfather (Charles Bell) who was killed in that war," she said. "That great-grandfather didn't own land, didn't own slaves. He was fighting for his country. He fought under that flag and died at Gettysburg."

Bell said Clyburn "doesn't know what he's talking about."

"We are opposed to affirmative action," she said. "We are opposed to forced busing. We are opposed to racial quotas. We are for Southern heritage."

GOP national committeeman Buddy Witherspoon also belongs to the group, and has said the council's main interest is historic preservation.

But Clyburn, noting the council has been condemned by top officials of both the national Democratic and Republican parties, said it promotes "a racist ideology" and is an outgrowth of the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s that promoted and enforced segregation.

Clyburn said his legislation is modeled after a 1994 resolution by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., that condemned as "racist, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic" a speech at Kean College by Khalid Abdul Muhammed of the Nation of Islam.

Hyde's resolution passed the House with all but 34 members voting in favor.

"I want to see the leadership of the House take the same kind of position in this matter that they took with that one," Clyburn said. "I want to see Mr. Hyde and Mr. Barr be consistent."

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