Association with Supremacist Group Questioned
Joan Lowy, Scripps Howard News Service
Naples Daily News, Saturday, January 16, 1999
© Copyright 1999 Naples Daily News
- While shepherding the Senate impeachment trial of President
Clinton, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi has
been struggling with a potentially damaging political embarrassment
of his own.
has been widely condemned in newspaper editorials and columns
in recent weeks for his association with the Council of Conservative
Citizens, a group that disseminates white supremacist views and
has strong ties to groups that enforced segregation in the South
during the 1950s and 1960s.
Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, issued
a report last month calling the council "the reincarnation
of the infamous White Citizens Councils" which battled desegregation
in the '50s and '60s and was also known as the "white-collar
is not the only Southern politician to associate with the council,
which boasts 15,000 members and 22 state chapters. The group's
Black Hawk rally, an event held every four years in Mississippi
before election day, is a mandatory stop for most of the state's
politicians, including some Democrats.
Lott's association appears more extensive. He gave the keynote
address to the council's semi-annual board meeting in 1992 and
met privately with top council officials in his Washington office
in 1997. The council's newsletter, The Citizens Informer, has
run several pictures of Lott posing with council officials and
regularly prints a column distributed by his office to newspapers.
newsletter is devoted largely to race issues with an emphasis
on the notion that interracial marriage and unfettered immigration
are threatening the future of the white race.
one can deny the importance of the question of miscegenation or
race-mixing," wrote Robert Patterson, a columnist for the
newsletter and a council founder. "Western civilization with
all its might and glory would never have orchestrated its greatness
without the direct hand of God and the creative genius of the
effort to destroy the race by a mixture of black blood is an effort
to destroy Western civilization itself."
The Washington Post first disclosed his involvement last month,
Lott sought to distance himself from the council and denied any
"first hand knowledge" of the group.
in subsequent news interviews, council officials and Lott's uncle
- a member of the executive board of the council's Carroll County,
Miss., chapter - indicated Lott was closely familiar with the
for Lott declined to comment.
controversy has rankled some African-American members of Congress
and some interests groups who say it shows Lott is unfit to continue
as the top GOP leader in the Senate and one of the party's top
leaders in the country.
and other Republicans who have addressed the council "do
not reflect what this nation supposedly stands for - equal treatment
under the law and the rule of law," said Rep. James Clyburn,
D-S.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
ask me all the time why black people are so wedded to the Democratic
Party? This is why. We're not stupid. We know who these groups
are and what they stand for. You can't tell me this (the Republican
Party) is a party we can feel comfortable in," Clyburn said.
Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., another African-American member, said
she was dismayed that moderate Republican members of Congress
have not spoken out publicly about Lott's conduct.
expect them not only to say to Trent Lott that those kinds of
(contacts) are unacceptable, but also I would expect that they
would say Trent Lott's leadership is no longer acceptable to them.
This is leadership that goes backwards," McKinney said.
Ivers, a spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents
gay Republicans, said Lott's association with the council was
"extremely inappropriate" and should disqualify him
from serving as GOP leader.
lending the party's label to an extremely hateful and totally
distasteful group is part of the problem the party is having in
general with being perceived as too extreme," Ivers said.
clashed with gay activists last year when he described homosexuality
as a sin and compared gays to alcoholics and kleptomaniacs.
of Lott's Democratic colleagues in the Senate have also begun
to gingerly question the propriety of the association.
would hope that (Lott) would not lend encouragement to an organization
that has racist reasons for being," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg,
who were willing to discuss the issue mostly defended Lott.
think Senator Lott is doing an outstanding job and I'm very enthusiastic
about his performance," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Republicans said they could see how Lott might have accidentally
associated with the council.
are a lot of groups that share those sort of views. We have some
of them in my state. They are called the Freemen," said Sen.
Conrad Burns, R-Mont. However, Burns was quick to add that he
would never accept a speaking invitation from the Freemen or any
other hate group.
said the black caucus may raise the issue later this year in connection
with Republican opposition to Clinton administration nominees
for federal judgeships, especially African-American nominees.