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House Oversight Committee holds public hearings on the Waco debacle. [Source: C-SPAN]The House Oversight Committee releases its report on the FBI’s siege and final assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993, March 1, 1993, and April 19, 1993). The report was prepared in conjunction with the House Judiciary Committee. The report spans investigative activities undertaken on behalf of the committees by Congressional investigators from April 1995 through May 1996; the committees took almost three months to write the final report. As part of that investigation, the Oversight Committee held 10 days of public hearings (see August 4, 1995). [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Findings - The report makes the following conclusions:
Branch Davidians Responsible for Situation, Deaths - “But for the criminal conduct and aberrational behavior of David Koresh and other Branch Davidians, the tragedies that occurred in Waco would not have occurred,” the report finds. “The ultimate responsibility for the deaths of the Davidians and the four federal law enforcement agents [referring to the federal agents slain in the February 1993 raid] lies with Koresh.” The Davidians set the fires themselves, the report finds. Moreover, the Davidians had time to leave the premises after their cohorts set the fires, and most either chose to stay or were prevented from leaving by their fellows. The 19 Davidians killed by gunfire either shot themselves, the report finds, were shot by their fellows, or were killed by “the remote possibility of accidental discharge from rounds exploding in the fire.”
Treasury Department 'Derelict' in Duties - Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and Deputy Secretary Roger Altman were “irresponsible” and “derelict in their duties” refusing to meet with the director of the BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, sometimes abbreviated ATF] in the month before the February raid, and failing to ask for briefings. Senior Treasury officials “routinely failed” to monitor BATF officials, knew little to nothing of the plans for the raid, and therefore failed to uncover the significant flaws in the plan. When the raid failed, Assistant Treasury Secretary Ronald Noble tried to blame the BATF for the failure, even though Noble and his fellow Treasury officials failed to supervise the BATF’s plans and activities.
BATF 'Grossly Incompetent' - Some of the worst criticism of the report are leveled at the BATF. The report calls the agency’s investigation of the Davidians (see June-July 1992, November 1992 - January 1993, and January 11, 1993 and After) “grossly incompetent” and lacking in “the minimum professionalism expected of a major federal law enforcement agency.” The agents in charge of planning decided to use a “military-style raid” two months before beginning surveillance, undercover, and infiltration efforts. The agency did have probable cause for a search warrant against Koresh and the Davidians (see February 25, 1993), but the affidavit applying for the warrant “contained an incredible number of false statements.” The BATF agents responsible for the affidavit either knew, or should have known, the affidavit was so inaccurate and false. Koresh could easily have been arrested outside the compound, the report finds; the BATF planners “were determined to use a dynamic entry approach,” and thusly “exercised extremely poor judgment, made erroneous assumptions, and ignored the foreseeable perils of their course of action.” BATF agents lied to Defense Department officials about the Davidians’ supposed involvement in drug manufacturing, and by those lies secured Defense Department training without having to reimburse the department, as they should have. The raid plan itself “was poorly conceived, utilized a high risk tactical approach when other tactics could have been successfully used, was drafted and commanded by ATF agents who were less qualified than other available agents, and used agents who were not sufficiently trained for the operation.” Plan security was lax, making it easy for the Davidians to learn about the plan and take precautions. The report singles out BATF raid commanders Philip Chojnacki and Chuck Sarabyn for criticism, noting that they endangered BATF agents’ lives by choosing to go ahead with the raid even though they knew, or should have known, the Davidians had found out about it and were taking defensive action. “This, more than any other factor, led to the deaths of the four ATF agents killed on February 28.” The report is highly critical of Chojnacki’s and Sarabyn’s rehiring after they were fired (see December 23, 1994). The report also cites former BATF Director Stephen Higgins (see July 2, 1995) and former Deputy Director Daniel Hartnett for failing to become involved in the planning.
Justice Department Decision to Approve Final Assault 'Highly Irresponsible' - The report charactizes Attorney General Janet Reno’s approval of the FBI’s plan to end the standoff “premature, wrong… highly irresponsible… [and] seriously negligent” (see April 17-18, 1993). Reno should have known that the plan would put the Davidians’s lives at extreme risk, especially the children inside, and should have been doubly reluctant because of the lack of a serious threat posed by the Davidians to the FBI or to the surrounding community. Reno should have been skeptical of the FBI’s reasons for ending the standoff: negotiations were continuing, the Davidians were not threatening to break out in force, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) could have gone longer without mandatory rest and retraining, the Davidians’ living conditions had not significantly deteriorated, and there was no reason to believe that children were being abused or mistreated any more than they may have been before the February raid. “The final assault put the children at the greatest risk.” The report calls the plan to use CS riot control gas “fatally flawed.” CS gas is a dangerous substance, and particularly threatening to children, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with respiratory conditions, all of which were represented in the compound. Some of those who died in the fires may have died from exposure to CS gas before the fires consumed them, the report speculates. The Davidians were likely to react violently and not submissively, as the FBI insisted, and the likelihood of armed resistance and mass suicide in response to the CS gas insertion was high. Moreover, the plan had no contingency provisions in case the initial insertion did not provide the desired result. Reno offered her resignation after the April 19 assault; the report says that President Clinton “should have accepted it.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
FBI Pushed for Violent Confrontation Instead of Allowing Negotiations to Continue - The FBI was riven by the conflict between two teams with “incompatible methodologies,” the report finds: the HRT, which ultimately controlled the situation, and the negotiators. Senior FBI agent Jeffrey Jamar almost always sided with the HRT’s aggressive approach, but often “allowed the proposals of each team to be implemented simultaneously, working against each other.” The FBI’s chief negotiator on-site, Gary Noesner, told the committee that the dichotomy between the “action-oriented” HRT and the “nonviolent” negotiators is a problem that the FBI routinely experiences; it was not unique to the Davidian standoff. The two teams battled with increasing hostility and anger towards one another as the siege progressed, with the negotiators becoming less and less influential. The negotiators later testified that the pressure tactics used by the HRT against the Davidians undermined their efforts at winning the Davidians’ trust and rendered their efforts ineffective. FBI profiler Peter Smerick (see March 3-4, 1993, March 7-8, 1993, March 9, 1993, March 9, 1993, March 17-18, 1993, August 1993, and 1995) was particularly harsh in his assessment of the tactics of the HRT during the siege; during his interviews with investigators, Smerick said “the FBI commanders were moving too rapidly toward a tactical solution and were not allowing adequate time for negotiations to work.” Smerick told investigators that while the “negotiators were building bonds… the tactical group was undermining everything.… Every time the negotiators were making progress the tactical people would undo it.” The report concludes, “FBI leadership engaged these two strategies in a way that bonded the Davidians together and perpetuated the standoff.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] After March 2, when Koresh and the Davidians broke what some considered to be a promise to come out (see March 2, 1993), Jamar believed nothing Koresh or the others said, and essentially gave up on the idea of a negotiated surrender. Chief negotiator Byron Sage did not share that view, but Jamar and the HRT officials began thinking, and planning, exclusively on a forced end to the standoff, even ignoring evidence that Koresh intended to lead his people out after completing his work on an interpretation of the Biblical Seven Seals (see April 14-15, 1993). Many FBI officials, particularly Jamar, Noesner, and the HRT leadership, became frustrated and impatient with what the report calls “endless dissertations of Branch Davidian beliefs” (see March 15, 1993), to the point where they ignored the assertions from religious experts that the Davidians could be productively negotiated with on a religiously theoretical level (see March 16, 1993). The FBI, the report says, “should have sought and accepted more expert advice on the Branch Davidians and their religious views and been more open-minded to the advice of the FBI’s own experts.” Jamar and the senior FBI officials advising Reno should have known that the reasons they gave to end negotiations and force an ending were groundless; their advice to Reno was, the report says, “wrong and highly irresponsible.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] However, some charges against the FBI are baseless, the report finds. CS gas would not have built up in any areas of the residence to anything approaching lethal levels. No FBI agents shot at the Davidians or the compound. No agent set any fires, either deliberately or inadvertently. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Defense Department Bears No Responsibility - The report finds no reason to fault the Defense Department or National Guard, as no DoD nor Guard personnel took an active part in the assault; the Posse Comitatus Act was therefore not violated. No foreign military personnel or foreign nationals took any part in the assault, though “[s]ome foreign military personnel were present near the Davidian residence as observers at the invitation of the FBI.”
Recommendations - The report recommends that:
the Justice Department consider assuming control of the BATF from the Treasury Department;
Waco residents who made the false statements to law enforcement officials included in the original search warrants should be charged with crimes;
federal agents should use caution in using such statements to obtain warrants; the BATF should review and revise its planning to ensure that “its best qualified agents are placed in command and control positions in all operations”;
senior BATF officials “should assert greater command and control over significant operations”;
the BATF should no longer have sole jurisdiction over any drug-related crimes;
Congress should consider enhancing the Posse Comitatus Act to restrain the National Guard from being involved with federal law enforcement actions;
the Defense Department should clarify the grounds upon which law enforcement agencies can apply for its assistance;
the General Accounting Office (GAO) should ensure that the BATF reimburses the Defense Department for the training and assistance it improperly received;
the GAO should investigate Operation Alliance, the organization that acts as a liaison between the military and other federal agencies;
the FBI should revamp its negotiation policies and training to minimize the effects of physical and emotional fatigue on negotiators;
the FBI should take steps to ensure greater understanding of the targets under investigation (the report notes that had the FBI and BATF agents understood more about the Davidians’ religious philosophies, they “could have made better choices in planning to deal with the Branch Davidians” (see March 15, 1993);
the FBI should ensure better training for its lead negotiators;
FBI agents should rely more on outside experts (the reports notes that several religious experts offered their services in helping the agents understand the Davidians, but were either rebuffed or ignored—see March 3, 1993, March 7, 1993, and March 16, 1993);
federal law enforcement agencies should welcome the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, particularly state and local agencies;
the FBI should expand the size of the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) “so that there are sufficient numbers of team members to participate in an operation and to relieve those involved when necessary”;
the FBI should conduct further examinations on the use of CS gas against children, those with respiratory problems, pregnant women, and the elderly. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
'Perhaps the Greatest Law Enforcement Tragedy in American History' - In a statement appended to the final report, Representative Steven Schiff (R-NM) calls the Davidian raid, standoff, and final assault “perhaps the greatest law enforcement tragedy in American history.” He writes: “It would not be a significant overstatement to describe the Waco operation from the government’s standpoint, as one in which if something could go wrong, it did. The true tragedy is, virtually all of those mistakes could have been avoided.” His statement decries what he calls the increasing “militarization of law enforcement,” recommends that the HRT be scaled back instead of expanded, expresses little confidence in the FLIR (forward-looking infrared radar) videotapes used to determine when and how the fires were started, calls for stringent limitations on the use of CS gas, and blames the FBI for not allowing many of the residents to escape. He accuses the Justice Department of a “breach of ethics” in what he says were its attempts to conceal and withhold evidence from the committee, and to shape its findings. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Dissenting Views - The investigating committees’ 17 Democrats issue a “dissenting views” addendum that is highly critical of what it calls the Republican majority’s use of “false assumptions and unfounded allegations” to besmirch the reputations of Reno and Bentsen, and the use of those “assumptions and allegations” to press for Reno’s resignation. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Entity Tags: Gary Noesner, US Department of the Treasury, US Department of Defense, Branch Davidians, Clinton administration, Dan Hartnett, Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, David Koresh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steven Schiff, Charles Sarabyn, Ronald Noble, Janet Reno, Stephen Higgins, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, General Accounting Office, Lloyd Bentsen, Jeffrey Jamar, Operation Alliance, Peter Smerick, Roger Altman, Philip Chojnacki
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Gary Lauck leaves a Danish courtroom in August 1995. [Source: Bjarke Oersted/Lincoln Journal-Star]American white supremacist Gary Lauck is convicted in Germany of smuggling illegal neo-Nazi materials into the country. Lauck has said he became a “Hitler fan” at age 11. He affects a fake German accent and has had his first name changed to “Gerhard.” Formerly a member of the National Socialist White People’s Party (the successor organization to the American Nazi Party), in 1974 Lauck founded the National Socialist German Workers Party/Overseas Organization (NSDAP/AO) after the NSWPP disintegrated. The NSDAP/AO is officially dedicated to promoting “a worldwide National Socialist-led White Revolution for the restoration of White Power in all White nations.” Lauck has attempted to bring such materials—including pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda, swastika armbands, pins, and other items—into Germany and other European countries since well before the reunification of East and West Germany (see November 9, 1989 and After). In the 1980s, Lauck succeeded in bringing almost 8 million pieces of German-language propaganda into Germany, including a German-language newspaper, Nazi Battle Cry, and an old Nazi propaganda film depicting Jews as rats. Lauck became a revered figure among Germany’s small but vocal neo-Nazi population, and had some success in bringing together a number of disparate neo-Nazi groups under his umbrella organization NS Kampfruf. In 1974 and 1975, Lauck was arrested by German officials and deported; in 1976, after being arrested with 20,000 Nazi posters in his possession, he served four months in a German prison and was banned from Germany for life. In 1995, he was arrested in Denmark on international warrants for disseminating illegal propaganda in Germany and handed over to the German courts. (Four days after his arrest, German authorities raided the homes of some 80 Lauck followers, and seized weapons, ammunition, and illegal literature.) He is sentenced to four years in prison and will be released in March 1999. After his release, he will return to the United States and begin disseminating Nazi propaganda via the Internet. [New York Times, 8/23/1996; Lincoln Journal-Star, 12/16/2007; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 11/29/2011]
Three Florida members of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), Jules Fettu, Donald Hansard, and Raymond Leone, are charged with assaulting an African-American man and his son after the two leave a concert in Sunrise, Florida. Witnesses will state that around 11 “skinheads,” or white males who shave their heads, espouse racist views, and sometimes display Nazi symbology, take part in the beating, kicking the pair in the back, chest, and face and smashing beer bottles over their heads. Fettu is heard to yell “white power!” and racial epithets during the attack, which is classified as a hate crime by police officers. Hansard and Leone will later plead guilty to aggravated assault; Fettu, who runs the WCOTC’s Web site, will be convicted of battery against the two. Guy Lombardi, the group’s Southeast regional director, will plead guilty to attempting to intimidate a witness in the case (see June 1998). [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999]
Don Black, the white supremacist who runs the racist Web site Stormfront.org (see March 1995), appears on ABC News’s Nightline, along with host Ted Koppel and First Amendment advocate Floyd Abrams, a prominent lawyer. Black is introduced as “a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.” During the interview, Black strives to give the appearance of a moderate, thoughtful person who does not espouse racial hatred, and explains that through Stormfront, he has “recruited people” via the Internet whom he “otherwise wouldn’t have reached.” He also says that sites such as Stormfront “provide those people who are attracted to our ideas with a forum to talk to each other and to form a virtual community.” Black says his views are entirely reasonable: “You may consider my views dangerous, but so were those of the Founding Fathers, who were considered dangerous. In fact, their views… weren’t that much different from my own.… Fifty, 60, 70 years ago, what I’m saying was part of the mainstream.” In the days after the interview, Black will claim a 400 percent increase in visitors to his site. [Anti-Defamation League, 1998]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Washington three days before his scheduled meeting with President Clinton and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat to discuss the stalled peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians (see Early 1998). Before meeting with Clinton and Arafat, Netanyahu meets with conservative televangelist and political activist Jerry Falwell—and a thousand of Falwell’s most devoted followers. “I put together one thousand people or so to meet with Bibi [Netanyahu] and he spoke to us that night,” Falwell later recalls. “It was all planned by Netanyahu as an affront to Clinton.” Falwell promises to mobilize 200,000 pastors across the United States to “tell President Clinton to refrain from putting pressure on Israel.” Falwell’s guest at the proceedings, fellow televangelist John Hagee (who will soon give $1 million to the United Jewish Appeal in hopes of hastening the Biblical “End Times”), tells the crowd that the Jews’ return to the Holy Land is prophecy of the “rapidly approaching… final moments of history.” Hagee then leads the crowd in a frenzied chant of “Not one inch! Not one inch!”—how much land they intend to see Israel give the Palestinians. When Netanyahu discusses the rally with the press four days later, he merely says: “I talk to liberals, I talk to conservatives, I talk to Jews, I talk to non-Jews. These meetings reflect the fact that Israel enjoys support from diverse circles in the United States.” But Richard Haass, a former Bush National Security Council official, says Netanyahu is playing political hardball. “This was a way for [Netanyahu] to push back,” Haass says. “If the White House was trying to make Mr. Netanyahu pay a price domestically for his lack of cooperation, essentially Mr. Netanyahu was sending a return signal: ‘Two can play at this game. I can spend more time with your political opponents and this is something that can come back and bite you.’” [Unger, 2007, pp. 156-157]
Three men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan are arrested in Illinois on weapons charges. The three, along with three others arrested later, are accused of plotting to murder a federal judge and civil rights lawyer Morris Dees; blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center, which Dees co-founded, and other buildings; poison water supplies; and rob banks. The six will receive terms of up to seven years in prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Four armed Florida members of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), all under 25, rob a Broward County, Florida, video store, planning to use the proceeds for the group. Three of them will later plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges related to the robbery. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999] According to the indictment, the four chose the target “because the defendants… believed that media outlets were controlled by ‘Jews,’ and that it was permissible to steal from the ‘Jews.’” The WCOTC members reportedly pattern the robbery after a similar incident in William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries (see 1978). They discussed sending the proceeds from the robbery to WCOTC’s Illinois headquarters. Two of the criminals, Donald Hansard and Raymond Leone, have already been convicted of charges stemming from the beating of a black man and his son (see August 1997). All four defendants will plead guilty. Dawn Witherspoon receives 13 months in prison; Angela King receives six years in prison; Hansard receives four and one-half years; and Leone receives over eight years in prison. [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999]
Matthew Hale, the leader of the overtly racist World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), graduates from law school and passes the Illinois bar exam. However, the Illinois State Bar Association rejects Hale’s application to practice law because of his “character and fitness.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999] The commissioners deny Hale’s application because of his published rhetoric, which they find in “absolute contradiction” to the required conduct of lawyers. A report issued by the Committee on Character and Fitness quotes racial slurs from the WCOTC Web site as evidence of Hale’s “bad character.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] In the January 1999 issue of WCOTC’s monthly newsletter “The Struggle,” Hale implores his fellow “Creators” to mobilize themselves in the event that his appeal of the ruling is denied, writing: “I call upon all White Racial Loyalists, whether inside or outside of the Church, to stand united in their opposition to this further attempt to disempower our Race in the court of law. While the time has not yet come for protests and other public shows of support for this struggle, the time is now to galvanize the entire White Racial Loyalist community in the event that the Hearing Board also declines my certification. I need all of you to spread news of what is happening throughout our community. For now, these events must only serve to motivate all of us even further to do our utmost to bring about the destruction of the Jewish system.” [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999]
William Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the author of the inflammatory and highly influential white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), says on the Alliance’s weekly radio broadcast American Dissident Voices (ADV): “We are letting the Mexicans and blacks wreck our country today not because the blacks or the Mexicans are able to brainwash us but because the Jews are. Mexicans are not a menace to us because they breed fast and carry switchblades. Blacks are not a menace because there are a lot of them and they have a tendency toward violence. We know how to deal with people who breed fast and carry switchblades. We know how to deal with violent blacks, no matter how many of them there are. Cleaning up America might be a bit messy, but there’s absolutely no question about our ability to do it, if we had the will to do it.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
Indiana University (IU) sophomore Benjamin “August” Smith gives a fiery interview to a student reporter that details his hatred of African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, homosexuals, and even many Christians. Smith describes himself as a member of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), a self-described “race religion” that espouses racism and totalitarianism. [Bloomington Independent, 8/27/1998] (Smith is the group’s “Creator of the Year” for 1998.) [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The church has approximately three members in the Bloomington, Indiana, area. Smith explains his hatred: “White people are best and they deserve the best. We don’t believe all races are equal. We see all inferior races breeding and the number of whites is shrinking. The mud people (see 1960s and After) will turn this world into a cesspool.” Until IU officials stopped him, Smith would paper the campus with fliers three or four times a week, earning him the sobriquet “the flier guy.” A typical flier reads: “If we do nothing, we will condemn our children to live in an Alien Nation where there is no place to escape these non-White invaders. There is nothing wrong with wanting America to remain a racially and culturally European nation.” In the interview, Smith says, “We want to show people that liberals like [President] Clinton are destroying the racial basis of this country.” Smith is as blunt about his church’s position on democracy, saying: “We’re not a big fan of democracy. We believe in totalitarianism.” If the church succeeds in achieving its goals, it will, Smith says, divide the US into portions, retaining much of it for its members. “We want the Midwest. It has the most fertile land and is the best basis for a new nation,” Smith says. Minorities will not be welcome. “Send the blacks back to Africa, the Asians back to Asia,” Smith says. “They probably won’t be very happy about it but they’ll probably end up wanting to leave.” Smith says mainstream Christianity is a huge impediment to his church’s aims. “It’s not blacks and Jews, but Christianity is our biggest obstacle. It caters to the weakness of man and humble him.” The church has its own Bible, Nature’s Eternal Religion. Smith became a white supremacist after entering college. “I looked through Aryan stuff and realized historically nations function best when there’s one race. Otherwise it’s a power struggle,” he recalls. “I saw the influx of taxpayers paying for minorities. This country was founded for and by whites and that’s when I decided I had to become an activist.” Smith has lost most of his old friends, and now calls them “race traitors and non-believers,” and though he still speaks to his parents, the relationship is strained. Through its Web site, the church claims it can come to power legally and non-violently, but, the site says, if the government tries “to restrict our legal means then we have no recourse but to resort to terrorism and violence.” Smith claims he has received death threats over his activism, but says he intends to increase his recruitment efforts in and around Bloomington and nearby Indianapolis. “Indy’s a big target for us,” he explains. “There are a lot more open minds. This community is la-la land.” [Bloomington Independent, 8/27/1998] Less than a year after the interview, Smith will go on a killing rampage throughout central Indiana before killing himself (see July 2-4, 1999).
The Reverend Fred Phelps, holding a sign outside Matthew Shepard’s funeral service. [Source: Slate]The funeral for Matthew Shepard, a gay college student brutally murdered by three white supremacists (see October 9, 1998 and After), is held in St. Mark’s Church in Casper, Wyoming. The service is led by the Reverend Anne Kitch. [CNN, 10/13/1998; Louie Crew, 10/14/1998] The Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, leads a small delegation of church members in a raucous denunciation of homosexuality at Shepard’s funeral. Phelps and his congregation members have picketed the funerals of gay men for years across the country, holding “God Hates Fags” signs and harassing family members. Governor Jim Geringer (R-WY) says he cannot prevent Phelps from attending the funeral, but vows that the protesters will not be allowed to disrupt it. Phelps’s group, Geringer says, is “just flat not welcome. What we don’t need is a bunch of wing nuts coming in.” For his part, Phelps, who claims he has received multiple death threats after announcing his journey to Laramie, says: “We’re not going to tolerate any violence from these homosexuals. They are the most violent people in the world. Here they are talking about what happened to this poor boy, and they turn around and make death threats against us.” Geringer, the Casper City Council, and several groups of gay activists succeeded in passing a regulation that keeps Phelps and his protesters 50 feet away from church property during the funeral. “[I]t was the best we could accomplish without risking an immediate court injunction for violating constitutional free speech,” reads a statement by the local chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans. “Such an injunction might have allowed Phelps to walk right up to the church property line.” [CNN, 10/13/1998; Log Cabin Republicans, 10/16/1998] Phelps and his fellow church members picket the funeral with signs reading, “Matt Shepard Rots in Hell,” “AIDS Kills Fags Dead,” and “God Hates Fags.” [Fact-Index, 2004] Five years later, Phelps will attempt to erect a marker emblazoned with inflammatory statements about Shepard in a local park, to “commemorate” his death (see October 3, 2003).
Conservative Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell, who speaks out against the anti-gay rhetoric of the Westboro Baptist Church. [Source: New York Times]People from the left and right of the social and political spectrum join in condemning the actions of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) during its protest at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten to death a month earlier (see October 9, 1998 and After and October 14, 1998). The Reverend Jerry Falwell, a far-right Christian evangelist, says of the WBC’s protest, “I found it almost impossible to believe that human beings could be so brutal and vicious to a hurting family.” Of the WBC’s leader, Fred Phelps, he says, “He’s a first-class nut.” Phelps says he is proud to be labeled as such by Falwell because “[i]t means I’m preaching the truth.” Phelps then labels Falwell a “Judas” and says WBC members will picket Falwell’s church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Robert H. Knight of the conservative Family Research Council says he asked Phelps to call off the church’s protests against gays (see June 1991 and After) a year ago, and says he told Phelps that his actions “misconstrue… the message of Christ, which was one of love.” Arne Owens of the Christian Coalition says that anti-gay Christian organizations oppose the homosexual lifestyle while loving gays and lesbians: “You must be loving toward all human beings while recognizing the role of sin in the world.” But Cathy Renna of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) says that Phelps only expresses the hatred other anti-gay groups feel but do not so bluntly demonstrate. The Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative lobbying group, joins the Christian Coalition and other anti-gay organization in accusing GLAAD and other gay rights groups of capitalizing on Shepard’s murder for their own purposes, a charge Renna calls ludicrous. She says that Shepard’s friends “told me that Matthew would have wanted something good to come out of this. If [a murder] energizes and makes us fight to educate people about the kind of violence lesbians and gays face every day, that’s not using Matthew.” Instead, she says, groups like the Christian Coalition are using Phelps to promote their agenda: “They can point to him and say: ‘He’s a bad guy. We’re compassionate.’” For his part, Phelps says his organization brought “a little sanity” to Shepard’s funeral, and claims it was “the homosexuals” who “turned it into a Cecil B. DeMille propaganda mill.” [Associated Press, 11/24/1998]
Entity Tags: Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation, Cathy Renna, Arne Owens, Christian Coalition, Fred Waldron Phelps, Jerry Falwell, Matthew Shepard, Westboro Baptist Church, Robert H. Knight, Traditional Values Coalition, Family Research Council
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy. [Source: Public domain]By late 1998, US and Italian intelligence are already aware of the importance of a mosque in Milan, Italy, called the Islamic Cultural Institute. After 9/11, the Treasury Department will call the mosque “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe. It is used to facilitate the movement of weapons, men and money across the world.” Additionally, they are aware that Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, a founder and director of Al Taqwa Bank, is also a founder and financier of the mosque. The mosque is also less than 50 miles away from Al Taqwa’s headquarters on the Swiss border.(see 1995-1997). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] US officials will later say that al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings stayed at the Milan mosque. This causes US and Italian intelligence to watch the mosque more closely, and it also causes the US to look closer at Al Taqwa Bank (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] One member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan lives in Hamburg with 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh for most of 1998 (see December 1997-November 1998). In 2000, Abderazek Mahdjoub, the head of the Milan cell, lives in Hamburg, attends the Al-Quds mosque that the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell attends, and has ties with some of the 9/11 hijackers (see 2000). Al-Qaeda operatives involved in the failed millennium bombing plot in Jordan also stay at the Milan mosque (see November 30, 1999). The Jordanian government later will claim that Al Taqwa helped fund these millennium bombers. [Newsweek, 3/18/2002; Newsweek, 4/12/2004] Starting in late 2000, Italian intelligence, wiretapping people associated with the Milan mosque and/or the Milan al-Qaeda cell, record conversations suggesting foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot (see August 12, 2000; January 24, 2001). This information is shared with the US in early 2001 (see March 2001). Additional evidence will come out after 9/11 suggesting some people in Milan had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 4, 2001; September 7, 2001). Given the closeness of the Al Taqwa Bank to the mosque, especially through Nasreddin, this raises the possibility of Al Taqwa involvement and knowledge of specific al-Qaeda plots, including the 9/11 attacks, though there is no known evidence of such direct ties except for the attempted millennium bombing mentioned above.
FBI Director Louis Freeh, speaking of the possibility of future violence from radical-right militia groups, says: “With the coming of the next millennium, some religious/apocalyptic groups or individuals may turn to violence as they seek to achieve dramatic effects to fulfill their prophecies.… Many white supremacist groups adhere to the Christian Identity belief system (see 1960s and After), which holds that the world is on the verge of a final apocalyptic struggle… and teaches that the white race is the chosen race of God.” Some of these Christian Identity members will commit crimes to prepare for their anticipated Apocalypse, Freeh warns, and says that the US government, Jews, and non-whites are likely targets. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006] Freeh’s statement anticipates the FBI’s “Project Megiddo” report, which will focus on the possibility of a wave of domestic terrorism coinciding with the “end of the millennium” (see October 20, 1999).
The Illinois State Bar Association hears an appeal by Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), who was denied a law license the year before (see May 1998 - January 1999). Hale brings WCOTC member Benjamin Smith (see July 2-4, 1999) to testify on his behalf; Smith says Hale has kept him from committing acts of violence. Smith tells the Character and Fitness Committee: “He’s given me spiritual guidance.… When I first met him, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life, what direction I was going to go.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
William Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the author of the inflammatory and highly influential white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), writes in the Alliance’s monthly Bulletin: “People who are living comfortably now will resist doing anything to jeopardize their situations. Cowards will remain cowards. But a growing minority of serious, moral people will admit finally, at least to themselves, that we have tolerated the Jews for far too long and that revolution is the correct course for patriots.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
Three separate instances of arson committed against synagogues are registered in Sacramento, California. Authorities believe the arsons may have been carried out by members of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), in part because of WCOTC leaflets found in one of the synagogue’s parking lots during a Holocaust Memorial Day service in April 1999. [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999]
Benjamin ‘August’ Smith. [Source: Eye on Hate (.com)]Benjamin “August” Smith, a troubled 21-year-old man who devoutly believes in the racist teachings of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), goes on a three-day killing spree targeted at Jews and non-whites. Smith gave himself the nickname of “August” because he believes his given name sounds Jewish, and as a reference to the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. Smith was expelled from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for several run-ins with police, and is in trouble at his current school, the University of Indiana, for distributing WCOTC literature and penning racist screeds for the student newspaper (see August 27, 1998). His girlfriend has broken up with him due to his physical and emotional abuse towards her. The event that apparently triggers Smith’s killing spree is Illinois’s denial of a law license to Matthew Hale, the leader of the WCOTC and a man Smith considers to be his mentor (see July 2, 1999).
July 2: One Killed, Six Injured - Smith, driving a light blue Ford Taurus and carrying a .380 semiautomatic and a .22 pistol, begins the killing spree on July 2 in a Chicago suburb when he sees a group of Orthodox Jews walking home from Sabbath services; he opens fire on them, injuring six. A short time later, Smith sees Ricky Byrdsong, an African-American and the former basketball coach of Northwestern University, walking with two of his children in his front yard in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. Smith shoots and kills Byrdsong from his car. He then fires on an Asian couple in the Northwood suburb, but misses them both.
July 3: Three Injured - On July 3, while police are piecing together the events of the Chicago shootings, Smith drives to Springfield, Illinois, where he shoots at two African-Americans, wounding one and missing the other. He then drives to Decatur where he shoots and wounds Stephen Anderson, an African-American minister. He then drives to Champaign-Urbana, where he critically wounds an Asian student.
July 4: One Killed, Shooter Commits Suicide - On July 4, Smith shoots and kills Won-Joon Yoon, a University of Indiana doctoral student standing outside his Birmingham, Indiana church. Smith abandons his Taurus in Ina, Illinois, hijacks a van from a gas station, and flees. Police, alerted to the hijacking, locate him traveling towards Salem, Illinois. The police chase Smith down the highway until he shoots himself below the chin in a suicide attempt; the badly wounded Smith crashes the van and shoots himself twice more before being taken to the hospital, where he is pronounced dead on arrival. A search of the Taurus reveals that Smith carefully planned his shooting spree, though he chose his victims apparently at random. A journal left in the car contains anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi writings; the journal opens, “Anyone who knows the history of this plague upon humanity who calls themselves Jews will know why I have acted.” The car also contains a bulletproof vest and receipts showing Smith has cashed in two retirement accounts. The police subsequently find and search a storage locker Smith had rented; it houses Nazi armbands and flags, a computer, printers, and floppy disks. [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003]
Reactions - A former Indiana roommate, Tyrese Alexander, says of Smith after the shootings: “There was never really a, ‘I don’t like you, I hate you because you’re black.’ He seemed to harbor intense anger, but it was never of a physical nature. He never lashed out at anybody. He just had an angry look on his face.… He seemed mad at the world. But I had no idea it would end like this.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/1999; CNN, 7/6/1999] Hale mourns his death, saying that Smith was “a pleasant person who believes in his people, who believes in his people, the white people, I can’t say anything bad about him,” and declares he feels nothing for the victims. Some believe that Hale may have known more of Smith’s plans than he admits. Of Smith’s victims, Hale says, “As far as we’re concerned, the loss is one white man.” [CNN, 7/6/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
'Martyr' for Radical Rightists - Many radical rightists will quickly declare Smith a “martyr” for the cause and an “exemplary student” of the movement. The spree will help bolster the WCOTC membership, which will expand into 17 states and a large Internet presence. [CNN, 7/6/1999; Albion Monitor, 7/26/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003] The WCOTC will eventually change its name to the “Creativity Movement” (see November 2002). Hale will be sentenced to prison in 2005 for soliciting the murder of a federal judge (see April 6, 2005). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Greater Ministries International Church (GMIC) logo. [Source: GMIC / Rick Ross]US marshals in Tampa, Florida, seize the headquarters of the Greater Ministries International Church (GMIC). The church is at the center of a lengthy investigation into a massive “Patriot movement” fraud scheme; federal authorities have already indicted several church principals. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001] Five leaders of the GMIC will later be convicted of multiple charges and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The GMIC scheme, which prosecutors call an enormous “Ponzi scheme,” garnered some $500 million from 18,000 Christian investors who believed the GMIC assurances that God would double their money. In late 2001, Gerald Payne, the leader of the scam, will be sentenced to 27 years for his conviction on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, money-laundering, and related charges. His wife, Betty Payne, will receive 12 years and seven months. (Judge James Whittemore will give her a lengthier sentence than he had first planned after she announces in court that the trial violates her and her husband’s constitutional rights, and because they were led by the Holy Spirit, she and her husband broke no laws.) Patrick Henry Talbert, who taught church-sponsored antigovernment legal seminars and claimed to be a “sovereign citizen” not subject to US law (see Fall 2010), will get nearly 20 years tacked onto the 10-year term he is serving on unrelated state charges. Eudon “Don” Hall, a flamboyant evangelist for GMIC’s “Faith Promises” program, will be given almost 20 years. David Whitfield, the financial and computer manager for GMIC, will attempt to deny involvement and knowledge of the scam, but will be proven a liar by testimony from an IRS agent that shows he knows where more than $1 million of the stolen funds is hidden in Mexico. Whittemore will sentence Whitfield to 19 years, warning him that if a Mexican cache is found and connected to him, he could face additional charges. Two other GMIC defendants, Andrew Krishak and James Chambers, will plead guilty and cooperate with authorities, receiving significantly lesser sentences. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Christianity Today, 10/1/2001]
Buford Furrow. [Source: Eye on Hate (.com)]Buford O’Neal Furrow, a security guard and member of the white supremacist Aryan Nations organization (see Early 1970s), attacks a day care center at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. Apparently to avoid capture, Furrow leaves his van behind and hijacks a car to drive to the center. Upon entering, he opens fire with an Uzi submachine gun, wounding three children, a counselor, and a receptionist. Investigators will determine that Furrow fires 70 shots. Furrow flees the scene and shortly thereafter encounters letter carrier Joseph Ileto, a Filipini-American. Furrow approaches Ileto and asks him if he can post a letter for him. As Ileto reaches for the piece of mail, Furrow pulls a Glock 9mm pistol and shoots him twice. Ileto attempts to get away, but Furrow pumps seven more bullets into his back. Ileto dies at the scene. Furrow will surrender the next day in Las Vegas, where he has fled the manhunt by state and local officials. He later tells investigators that the shootings are a “wake-up call” to Jews and white supremacist groups, and that he considered Ileto a good target because he was non-white and worked for the government. Police find a book in Furrow’s van extolling the virtues of the “Christian Identity” movement (see 1960s and After). Some will speculate that Furrow was acting as a “Phineas Priest” (see [1990), Christian Identity members who believe God has called them to carry out violent attacks. The book details how to become a “Phineas Priest,” and gives examples of successful actions, including the murder of radio show host Alan Berg (see June 18, 1984 and After). To avoid the death penalty, Furrow will plead guilty and be sentenced to two life sentences without parole, plus 110 years in prison and $690,294 in restitution. The judge will tell him, “Your actions were a reminder that bigotry is alive.” Referring to the support the center victims receive after the shootings, the judge concludes, “If you’ve sent a message, it is that even the most violent crimes can strengthen a community.” [CNN, 1/24/2001; Eye on Hate, 2003; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2010] Investigators will later learn that Furrow may be mentally unstable, and that he was frequently in short-term state psychiatric facilities, where he often expressed his desire to maim and kill. To questions that Furrow should have been involuntarily committed before the community center shootings, psychiatry professor Renee Binder will say: “What does society do with these people? Most people would say that being a racist with violent fantasies is not against the law. Racism is not something that is designated as an illness that can be treated by mental health professionals.” And Seattle official Ron Sims says: “The problem I have is that people are trying to build a case that this killing was done because the man was insane. What he did was cowardly, repulsive, and a very irrational act. But mental illness was not the cause. Hatred was. This guy came out of a culture of hatred.” [New York Times, 8/14/1999]
Pyrotechnic CS gas canisters. [Source: Law Enforcement Equipment Distribution]According to newly presented documents, the FBI used two or three pyrotechnic tear gas canisters during the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). The documents contradict earlier FBI and Justice Department claims that law enforcement officials did nothing that could have contributed to the fire that killed over 80 sect members. Former senior FBI official Danny Coulson begins the revelations by admitting to the Dallas Morning News that the FBI had indeed used pyrotechnic grenades, though he says the grenades did not start the fires that consumed the building. Texas Department of Public Safety Commission Chairman James Francis says the Texas Rangers have “overwhelming evidence” supporting Coulson’s statement. “There are written reports by Rangers, there is photographic evidence, there is physical evidence, all three of which are problematic,” Francis says. Coulson, the founder of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team and a former assistant deputy director, says that two M651 CS tear gas grenades were fired into the building, but they were fired hours before the blazes erupted. Attorney General Janet Reno, who tells reporters she knew nothing of the grenade usage and is “very, very frustrated” at the knowledge, appoints former Senator John C. Danforth (R-MO) as the head of an investigatory commission (see September 7-8, 1999); Danforth will find that, regardless of the use of the pyrotechnic gas canisters, law enforcement officials were not responsible for the fire, and neither the FBI nor the Justice Department tried to cover up any actions (see July 21, 2000). [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; Dallas Morning News, 8/25/1999; Salon, 9/9/1999] The military M651 canisters, which burn for about 30 seconds to heat and release the solidified tear gas inside, were fired from a Bradley fighting vehicle at a bunker near the main building (see September 3, 1999). After the assault, a Texas Ranger found a spent 40mm gas canister shell lying on the ground and asked a nearby FBI agent, “What’s this?” The agent promised to find out, but never returned with an answer; the shell went into evidence containers (see August 10, 1999 and After). Two weeks after the FBI acknowledges the use of incendiary gas canisters at the Waco assault, Reno testifies on the matter to the House Judiciary Committee. She says that, based on the briefings she had been given (see April 17-18, 1993), “It was my understanding that the tear gas produced no risk of fire.… That fire was set by David Koresh and the people in that building.” After her testimony, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) calls on Reno to resign. [Newsweek, 9/6/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999] FBI agent Byron Sage, the chief negotiator during the Davidian standoff, will say in 2003 that the incendiary gas canisters could not have set the fires. “This is the critical point, the M651 rounds were never directed towards the wooden structure,” he will say. “They were used in an area yards away from the building. Also, they were used earlier in the day. The fire didn’t start until four hours later. They had absolutely nothing to do with that fire.” Sage will say that the canisters were fired only at a construction pit near the compound where other gas-discharging devices had been smothered in mud. The pit was targeted because some Davidian gunfire during the ATF raid had come from that area, he will say. [Waco Tribune-Herald, 3/16/2003] Charles Cutshaw, an editor of Jane’s Defense Information and an expert on this kind of weapon, says these military tear gas cartridges are not intended to start fires. He says he knows of no studies or reports on how often such cartridges may have caused fires. [Washington Post, 9/4/1999] Shortly after the admission, federal prosecutor Bill Johnston, one of the lawyers for the government in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Davidians (see April 1995), informs Reno that government lawyers had known for years about the use of pyrotechnic tear-gas rounds (see August 30, 1999). Johnston will be removed from the lawsuit and replaced by US Attorney Michael Bradford. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/21/2000] He will also plead guilty to concealing evidence from investigators concerning the canisters (see November 9, 2000).
Entity Tags: FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Bill Johnston, Danny Coulson, Byron Sage, Branch Davidians, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James B. Francis Jr, Trent Lott, Janet Reno, US Department of Justice, John C. Danforth, Texas Rangers, Charles Cutshaw, Michael Bradford
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
One of the few survivors of the April 1993 conflagration that killed over 70 members of the Branch Davidian sect near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), writes of the events of that day and their aftermath. David Thibodeau was in the Mt. Carmel compound when the FBI tanks and armored vehicles began crashing through the walls. He recalls walls collapsing, CS gas billowing in, and a cacophony of noise assaulting his ears, from exploding rockets (ferret rounds containing CS gas) and tank-tread squeals to the shrieks of terrified children. The idea of trying to leave the building, he writes, “seemed insane; with tanks smashing through your walls and rockets smashing through the windows, our very human reaction was not to walk out but to find a safe corner and pray.” He and his fellow Davidians found the FBI’s reassurances, delivered over loudspeakers, of “This is not an assault!” confusing, conjoined as they were with tanks smashing down walls and gas being sprayed all over the building.
No Compulsion to Stay - Thibobeau insists that Davidian leader David Koresh had no intentions of ending the siege with a mass suicide; Koresh allowed those who wanted to leave the compound, even during the siege itself. “But many of us stayed, too, not because we had to, but because we wanted to,” Thibodeau explains. “The FBI and [B]ATF (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) had been confrontational from the start, they had lied to us and they continued lying up through the siege.”
FBI, Not Davidians, Set Fires? - He accuses the BATF of “fabricating” the charges that led that agency to raid the compound in February, writing that false allegations of drug use prompted the raid (the raid was actually prompted by charges of illegal firearms possession and child abuse—see November 1992 - January 1993 and May 26, 1993). He notes that a CIA agent has alleged that Delta Force commandos took part in the siege (see August 28, 1999), and says that FBI audiotapes prove federal agents, not the Davidians, caused the fire that destroyed the compound, largely through the use of incendiary devices (see Late September - October 1993, August 4, 1995, and August 25, 1999 and After). Thibodeau says that other videotapes show FBI agents firing into the compound during the final assault, and BATF agents firing into the compound from helicopters during the February raid. He writes: “The FBI has not come close to revealing the full government complicity in the Waco massacre. In the years since the fire, I’ve tried desperately to find out what really happened. What I’ve discovered is disturbing.” Thibodeau finds the allegations of child abuse particularly disturbing. He says while children were spanked for disciplinary purposes, “the strict rule was they could never be paddled in anger,” and “wild allegations” that children were scheduled to be sacrificed on Yom Kippur came from a single disgruntled former resident, Marc Breault, and were not true.
Intentions to Peacefully End Siege - Thibodeau writes that Koresh intended to settle the siege peacefully, by allowing himself to be taken into custody. He intended to stay long enough to finish his treatise on the “Seven Seals” of Biblical prophecy (see April 14-15, 1993). “The FBI thought the Seven Seals issue was just a ploy, and dismissed it,” Thibodeau writes. “But it was legitimate, and in the ashes of Mount Carmel they found that Koresh had completed the first two commentaries and was hard at work on the third when the tanks rolled in.”
'No Affinity with the Right' - Thibodeau writes of the heavy irony in the fact that many right-wing separatists and supremacists such as Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) have embraced the Davidians as part of their movement. “[W]e had no affinity with the right,” he notes, and says, “One irony of the Waco disaster is that right-wing extremists and racists look to Mount Carmel as a beacon; if they realized that so many of us were black, Asian, and Latino, and that we despised their hateful politics and anger, they would probably feel bitterly betrayed.” While not all of the Davidians “leaned to the left,” he writes, “we also had a ‘live and let live’ attitude that had allowed the community to co-exist with its Texas neighbors for all those decades. We certainly weren’t as isolated as people seem to think.” [Salon, 9/9/1999]
The visitors’ center at the new Branch Davidian church outside Waco, Texas. [Source: Waco Cult (.com)]Workers break ground on the Mt. Carmel property near Waco, Texas, for a new Branch Davidian church. The Davidian compound that stood there before was burned to the ground six years ago during a standoff with FBI agents (see April 19, 1993); only about 12 Davidians remain in the area. The project is led by radio talk show host Alex Jones, who says the Davidians were victims of “a government cover-up of its violation of the First Amendment.” Jones, whose radio show features radical conspiracy theories and a variety of right-wing and gun advocates as guests, says of the church raising: “This is a statement. This is about saying the witch hunt of 1993 is over.” The party of workers includes the parents of Davidian leader David Koresh, who died during the standoff. Koresh’s stepfather Roy Haldeman says of the project, “I feel good about it.” He lived at the compound during 1992 and the early months of 1993. Jones says he and others have been talking about building a structure on the site for three years. “All of it, it’s all about public opinion,” he says. “We know that now is the perfect time, that’s why we’re doing it.… This is a monument to the First Amendment. You think about speech and the press, but it is also religion and the expression thereof.” During an interview with an Associated Press reporter, he wears a pin reading, “You burn it, we build it.” Jones has contributed $1,000 to the project, and says it will be complete in two or three months. The ownership of the Mt. Carmel property is in dispute. At least four parties claim it: Clive Doyle and a group of Davidians who lived at the compound; Douglas Mitchell, who claims to be the divinely appointed leader of the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association; Amo Bishop Roden (see May 15, 1995), who has said that she was married “by contract” to the late George Roden, the former Branch Davidian leader (see November 3, 1987 and After); and Thomas Drake, Roden’s old bodyguard. Doyle says his group has maintained the grounds, erected a memorial to the Davidians slain in the standoff, and paid the taxes on it. He says he has been leading a small number of congregants in Bible studies in the Waco area and intends to lead services at the new church. One volunteer working on the church is Mike Robbins of Austin, a customer relations manager at a car dealership. He says he is not associated with the Davidians, but has constitutional concerns about what happened at the compound: “I came out here to support the First Amendment rights and the rights of every citizen,” he says. “There is a lack of tolerance in this country and I’m here to fight that.” [Associated Press, 9/19/1999; Dallas Morning News, 1/20/2000; Waco Tribune Herald, 5/3/2000] In November 1999, Jones is fired from his job as a host on Dallas’s KJFK-FM after refusing to stop broadcasting interviews with surviving Davidians, and for refusing to stop discussing his theories about government conspiracies surrounding the April 1993 debacle. Jones moves to a public-access cable TV channel and over the Internet. [Dallas Morning News, 1/20/2000] The target date for the completion of the project is pushed back to April 19, 2000, the seven-year anniversary of the conflagration at the former compound. About $40,000 has been raised for the project, volunteers say, but $50,000 more is needed. Doyle and his mother, Edna, live on the property in a mobile home. A good number of the volunteers helping build the church are anti-government activists who share theories about the government’s secret plan to destroy the Davidians, many of which are aired and discussed on the air by Jones, who regularly features survivors of the 1993 debacle on his cable show. The Michigan Militia has donated $500, and vendors sell T-shirts emblazoned with machine guns and slogans such as “Death to the New World Order.” Construction work is only done on Sundays, in deference to the Davidians’ Saturday Sabbath. [Howard News Service, 12/22/1999; Dallas Morning News, 1/20/2000] The church will be dedicated for services on April 19, 2000. The construction costs will come to at least $92,000. Some of the surviving Davidians do not want to worship at the new church, but prefer to meet in private homes. [Howard News Service, 12/22/1999; Associated Press, 4/19/2000] At the dedication service, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark says: “This is an occasion for joy, because from the ashes has risen the church. The world must never forget what the United States government did here.” Clark is one of several lawyers representing the surviving Davidians in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the US government (see April 1995). Five Michigan Militia members, dressed in combat fatigues and berets, will present sect members with a commemorative plaque from their group for the new building. [Dallas Morning News, 4/20/2000] Doyle will eventually win a court verdict awarding him ownership of the land. [The Mercury, 8/11/2002]
Entity Tags: Alex Jones, David Koresh, Amo Bishop Roden, Branch Davidians, Clive J. Doyle, Thomas Drake, Ramsey Clark, Roy Haldeman, George Roden, Douglas Mitchell, Mike Robbins, Michigan Militia
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
A survey of the 1,200 mosques in the US done by four Muslim organizations finds that 2 million Muslims are “associated” with a mosque and 70 percent of mosque leaders are generally favorable toward fundamentalist teachings. Furthermore, 21 percent follow the radical Islamist practice known as Wahhabism. The survey finds the segregation of women for prayers is spreading, from half of the mosques in 1994 to two-thirds six years later. Many of the more fundamentalist leaning mosques, such as the $8 million King Fahd mosque in the Los Angeles area (see June 9, 2000), are funded by the Saudi government. The Saudi government also pays for a large amount of religious literature distributed in the US that promotes the Saudi version of Islam. [Washington Post, 8/19/2004]
Byron Sage, the chief FBI negotiator during the Waco, Texas, siege that claimed the lives of almost 80 Branch Davidians (see April 19, 1993), now says the FBI’s strategy during the siege was wrong. “We played right into the hands of David Koresh,” the leader of the Branch Davidians, Sage tells a television interviewer. “He had an apocalyptic end in mind, and he used us to fulfill his own prophecy.” [San Antonio Express-News, 2/27/2000]
William Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the author of the inflammatory and highly influential white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), asks on the Alliance’s weekly radio broadcast American Dissident Voices (ADV), “Why should I not be able to do what is right and natural and kill those who commit such an abomination?” Pierce is referring to white women who date African-American men (see 1988 and November 26, 2004). In the same broadcast, he says: “We should be going from door to door with a list of names and slaying those who have engineered this assault on our people.… And we know who the engineers are.… They are, first and foremost, the media bosses and the other leaders of the Jews.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
Testimony begins in the civil suit filed by the survivors of the Branch Davidian conflagration outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), and the family members of those killed in the fire. The plaintiffs claim the government is responsible for the wrongful death of some 80 Davidians (see April 1995). The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Caddell, shows pictures of 15 children who died in the fire, and tells the jury that each of the children “never owned a gun. Never broke the law. Never hurt anyone.” For his part, US Attorney Michael Bradford, heading the government defense team, calls the Mt. Carmel compound of the Davidians an “armed encampment,” and says the Davidians ambushed agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF) when those agents presented search and arrest warrants to the residents (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993). Bradford tells the jury that Davidian leader David Koresh is responsible for the fire, not the FBI agents who assaulted the compound with tear gas and assault vehicles (see Late September - October 1993, August 2, 1996, and July 21, 2000). “The responsibility for those tragic events should not be placed upon the shoulders of the brave men and women of the ATF and the FBI,” Bradford says. “The responsibility for what happened at Mount Carmel is on David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. They caused this dangerous situation to occur, and they brought it to a tragic end.” The first to testify are three survivors of the conflagration, marking the first time any survivors have testified in the five-year legal proceedings. The survivors say that government reports of the Davidians being “armed to the teeth” are wrong, and depict the community as a happy, peaceful group. “There were people from all over the world: different personalities, different families, different interests, different likes and dislikes. We were all there for one purpose, and that was the Bible studies,” says Rita Riddle, who lost her brother Jimmy Riddle in the final fire. “David [Koresh] was my teacher.” Jaunessa Wendel, one of the children who left the compound before the fire, says: “It was our home. It was like an apartment building, a community center.” She testifies about bullets smashing through a window during the initial BATF raid, coming perilously close to striking her three younger siblings. “There was glass in my brother’s crib,” she recalls. Wendel’s mother, Jaydean Wendel, died in the shootout. Her father, Mark Wendel, died in the final fire. The three say they never learned to use guns from Koresh and other Davidians, disputing government testimony to the contrary, but admit that Koresh took other men’s wives as his own and fathered many of the community’s children (see February 27 - March 3, 1993). The government lawyers note that Wendel and another adult survivor previously told authorities that, contrary to their testimony today, they saw Riddle carrying or shooting a gun during the BATF raid, a contention that Riddle denies. Wendel says she lied during that testimony for fear that her family “might be split up” by the authorities if she did not tell them what she believed they wanted to hear. Government lawyers repeat earlier testimony from Wendel saying that she saw her mother fire on BATF agents. “You just made all that up?” Bradford asks. [Dallas Morning News, 6/6/2000]
Entity Tags: Mark Wendel, David Koresh, Branch Davidians, Jaunessa Wendel, Jimmy Riddle, Michael Caddell, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Michael Bradford, Jaydean Wendel, Rita Riddle
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Media investigations show that the February 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of four BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents and six Davidians (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) lost the element of surprise when a local sheriff’s department official tipped off the Davidians. The BATF has blamed television cameraman Jim Peeler of Waco’s KWTX-TV for alerting a local mailman, David Jones, to the upcoming raid. Jones, a relative of Davidian leader David Koresh, alerted Koresh to the imminent raid. However, Peeler was told of the raid by Cal Luedke, a longtime member of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office. Luedke was part of the BATF’s raid preparation and support team. Luedke denies the allegation, but a KWTX cameraman who filmed part of the raid, Dan Mulloney, says station officials learned of Luedke’s role from local reporter Tommy Witherspoon, who learned of the incident from Luedke himself. “Tommy told me it was Cal. No doubt about it,” Mulloney says. “I knew if Tommy said something was true, it was. I could trust him 100 percent. And he told me that Cal had told him the raid had been moved up to Sunday.” Witherspoon denies telling Mulloney the identity of his source, and says Mulloney learned of Luedke’s involvement from another source, whom Mulloney identifies as his girlfriend, who worked for the Waco ambulance company that was on alert the morning of the raid. State and federal authorities, including the BATF and the Texas Rangers, have confirmed Luedke’s involvement in alerting the Davidians, and say that Luedke has admitted to tipping off the Davidians to the raid. However, when asked by reporters in March about the story, he denied any involvement. He has also denied his involvement in a deposition given on behalf of a lawsuit filed by a group of current and former BATF agents against KWTX, a local newspaper, and the ambulance company, which charged that the three were responsible for tipping off the Davidians. The case was settled out of court. Peeler and Mulloney say their reputations have been irreparably damaged by years of accusations that they were partly responsible for the 10 deaths at the Davidian compound. [Austin Chronicle, 6/23/2000]
Entity Tags: US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Tommy Witherspoon, McLennan County Sheriff’s Department (Texas ), Dan Mulloney, Cal Luedke, Branch Davidians, David Jones (Waco), David Koresh, Jim Peeler, KWTX-TV, Texas Rangers
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Habitat for Humanity logo. [Source: Habitat for Humanity]President Bush issues two executive orders establishing a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and ordering five cabinet-level departments to establish similar centers inside their own bureaucracies. Bush explains the need for such offices: to remove the internal rules and regulations that prevented churches and synagogues from obtaining government grants for welfare work such as building homeless shelters, addiction treatment centers, and soup kitchens. Many faith-based groups such as Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army receive millions of government dollars already, but to do so they must obey strict rules for keeping church and state separate: no proselytizing in the same facilities used for taxpayer-funded work, no discrimination against people of different faiths. Bush calls those rules discriminatory against religious groups. To allow the new faith-based offices to reshape the bureaucracy’s behavior, the White House needs to change the federal rules about who can receive taxpayer funds. It sends Congress a bill allowing religious groups to receive taxpayer funds even if they discriminate against people of other faiths, and even if they want to deliver their services in a religious context. Critics call the bill an attempt to establish government-sanctioned religious practices, and say it violates the constitutional wall between church and state. Congress refuses to even bring the bill to a vote. Instead, Bush issues an executive order instructing the bureaucracy to make the changes anyway. With Republicans in charge of both the House and Senate, Congress does not object, and the order stands. Now, faith-based groups can require aid recipients to listen to sermons, view symbols, and even participate in prayer and other religious observances. In 2004, Bush will boast of his actions: “I got a little frustrated in Washington because I couldn’t get the bill passed out of Congress. Congress wouldn’t act, so I signed an executive order—that means I did it on my own.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 289-291]
Destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. [Source: CNN]The Taliban begins blowing up two giant stone Buddhas of Bamiyan—ancient statues carved into an Afghan mountainside, which are considered priceless treasures. They face great international condemnation in response, but no longer seem to be courting international recognition. Apparently, even ISI efforts to dissuade them fail. [Time, 8/12/2002; Time, 8/12/2002] Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf wrote Taliban head Mullah Omar a four-page letter urging him not to blow up the statues, and the letter was secretly hand-delivered to Omar by IS Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, but the letter had no effect. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 409] Omar had previously announced the statues would not be harmed and even opened a National Museum in 2000. The change in policy appears to be due to bin Laden’s growing influence. Journalist Kathy Gannon will later write, “bin Laden’s hardliner rhetoric set the policy, and he campaigned vigorously for the destruction of the statues.” The destruction of the statues further isolates the Taliban internationally, leaving them more dependent on bin Laden’s generosity. [Gannon, 2005, pp. 79-81]
Binyam Mohamed, a 23-year old Muslim of Ethiopian descent residing in London, flies to Pakistan to experience Islam in its “purest form” as practiced by the Taliban. Mohamed, who was abandoned by his family in London when he was 15, is a former heroin addict and desultory college student who turned to the local mosque as a way to avoid his drug-using friends. He will later claim, “I really had no idea what it was” that the Taliban espoused; he goes to Afghanistan on the advice of some in the mosque. After arriving in Pakistan, he sneaks into Afghanistan in the back of a truck. He will later say that he learns about the Muslim rebels in Chechnya from sympathizers in Jalalabad, and determines to aid the Muslim cause, but, he claims, as an aid worker, not a terrorist or Taliban fighter. Yet he agrees to undergo basic training in Afghanistan for fighters. He will later say: “I was told that the Russians don’t separate between aid workers and those doing the fighting, and that if I wanted to go to Chechnya, I needed basic training. I was so young, I didn’t question it. I didn’t expect to fire a gun except in training, let alone kill someone.… I would never have taken up arms against British or American soldiers, let alone attacked civilians. I wanted to protect civilians, not kill them.” He completes a 45-day “boot camp” course, where, he will later say, he learned nothing to do with terrorism, such as bomb-making techniques. But instead of traveling to Chechnya, he goes to Kabul, where he contracts malaria. He is in the hospital when he learns of the 9/11 attacks. He thinks Afghanistan will soon be under attack from Western forces, and, he will later say, decides to leave for London before the fighting can start (see September 2001 - April 9, 2002). “All I wanted to do was to get back to London, to the country that I thought of as home, to continue my education and find a job; to get back to my life, minus the drugs,” he will say. [Daily Mail, 3/8/2009]
Eric D. Hanson, a former Marine, overt racist, and member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), is killed after a 14-hour gun battle and standoff with police in Lindenhurst, Illinois. Police investigtors approach Hanson while he is sitting in his car in front of his house, and attempt to arrest him for illegal weapons possession and gunrunning. Hanson flees, and the officers follow him to a grocery store parking lot. Hanson then opens fire on the officers, shooting one in the neck and thigh and a second in his bulletproof vest. Hanson runs inside the store, exits to again shoot at the officers, enters the store again and tells those inside to leave, and hides inside the now-deserted store. Police descend on the store. At 3:00 a.m., a remote-controlled bomb squad robot searches the store, but does not locate Hanson. A tactical weapons team then enters the store and finds Hanson hiding in a meat locker. Hanson fires at the tactical officers and they return fire, killing him. Hanson was previously convicted of assaulting an interracial couple in 1999, and told the jury during the proceedings: “Whites and blacks should be separate. It made me upset to see them together.” After his release from jail, he worked diligently for the National Alliance, distributing racist and anti-Semitic literature in Chicago and organizing a local unit in that city. According to a friend, Hanson particularly enjoyed “agitat[ing] the Jews,” and the friend tells reporters of an incident where Hanson and two other Alliance friends bought an Israeli flag in a local mall and stomped it in the middle of the mall while screaming anti-Semitic imprecations. Six months before his final standoff, Hanson assaulted an African-American woman after attending a Ku Klux Klan rally (see December 16, 2000). National Alliance members will memorialize Hanson in emails and Internet forum postings, calling him a hero, a “racial leader” and a “brave warrior,” and accusing police of setting up the situation to ensure Hanson’s death. Alliance members will grant Hanson the status of official “martyr” for the “cause.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002; Nicole Nichols, 2003] After Hanson’s death, Dave Neesan, who will succeed Hanson as the Alliance chapter leader in Chicago, will write, “His honor, patriotism, and honesty led him to draw an obvious conclusion: America is in deep trouble, and real Americans—White Americans—are being pushed out of their country.” Hanson was a “white patriot” who was merely protecting his rights against an unfair and murderous police presence, Neesan will say. More importantly, according to Neesan, Hanson’s death galvanizes the Chicago chapter, pushing it to more prominent actions in and around Chicago, though nothing to the level of violence in which Hanson engaged. Like many other more modern white supremacists, Neesan believes in moderating the appearance of organizations like the Alliance, eschewing “white sheets” and racial epithets for suits and ties and toned-down language. Still, Neesan will claim, Hanson and his actions, including his assaults on African-Americans and his violent resistance to arrest, make him a role model for newer Alliance members. [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 5/2/2004]
A screenshot from ‘Stormfront for Kids,’ depicting the site’s logo and two Confederate-era flags. [Source: USA Today]USA Today reports on the participation of Derek Black, the 12-year-old son of Don Black, in his father’s Web activities. The elder Black operates Stormfront, the Internet’s first large-scale Web site promoting racial hatred and white supremacy (see March 1995). Black is proud of his son, telling a reporter that he “[c]ouldn’t ask for anything more.” He keeps a framed photo of Derek dressed in a Confederate soldier’s uniform above his desk in his home office. Derek runs the site’s children’s section, Stormfront for Kids, under his father’s supervision. The children’s pages feature puzzles, games, animated Confederate flags, audio files of white-pride songs, what USA Today calls “an inflammatory article about Martin Luther King Jr.,” and a personal statement from Derek asking visitors to stop sending him hate mail. “I get a lot of people who think I’m just a pawn in this horrible game of lies,” says Derek, who has been home-schooled since third grade by his mother, Chloe. “One person said: ‘Don’t listen to what your father says. Go turn on the Discovery Channel. Find out what the real world is like.’ Why would I turn on the TV to find out what the real world is like?” Stormfront for Kids is emblematic of the white supremacist movement’s outreach to younger potential members. Of the estimated 2,500 “hate” Web sites, 44 have sections designed for children, teens, and parents, according to Mark Weitzman of the Wiesenthal Center’s Task Force Against Hate. Though the number of sites may be small, USA Today reports that child psychologists and others monitoring their activity are alarmed about their reach and influence. “If you have a susceptible child who is angry and depressed, the sites could push a child toward certain behavior,” says psychiatrist Sirgay Sanger, director of New York City’s Early Care Center. “It’s the first step toward throwing a rock.” Weitzman says: “The number of people involved in these movements is not the only important factor. Sometimes when the numbers are low, members think the only way they can get their message across is through an act of domestic terrorism or extreme violence.” The most effective way that Stormfront and other groups such as the National Alliance (see 1970-1974) reach young people is through “skinhead” music, says Jordan Kessler, director of an Internet monitoring unit for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “This is a language kids understand—a band of cool-looking young guys blasting out music.” One label, Resistance Records (see Late 1993 and Summer 1999), sold “close to $1 million” in merchandise last year, mostly online, according to Erich Gliebe, the leader of the National Alliance and the CEO of Resistance Records. That label sells items such as Nazi parade flags and a CD titled “War Songs of the 3rd Reich, Vol. 3.” Black says, “People say, ‘You’re teaching your son Satan.’” But, he says, “I think anyone who is critical of me for instilling in my son my world view has lost track of how a society should function.” [USA Today, 7/16/2001]
Entity Tags: Mark Weitzman, Don Black, Derek Black, Chloe Black, Erich Josef Gliebe, National Alliance, Jordan Kessler, Stormfront (.org), Sirgay Sanger, Resistance Records, USA Today, Stormfront for Kids
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The Macedonian government and Macedonian Albanian political leaders, along with EU envoy Francois Leotard and American envoy James Pardew, conduct talks for weeks in Ohrid and come to an agreement on August 8. The Framework Agreement is signed at a tense ceremony in Skopje on August 13. Under the agreement, Macedonia’s constitution will be changed to call it a state of “Macedonian citizens,” not the “Macedonian nation”; Albanian will become an official language where 20 percent or more of the people are speakers; limits are taken off national symbols and religion; and Albanians and other groups are given a veto over legislation about “culture, use of language, education, personal documentation, and use of symbols,” and can call for elected commissions to monitor human rights. The parties agree to reform the Macedonian police force to reflect Macedonia’s ethnic makeup by 2004 (only six percent of the force is Albanian at this time), the Law on Local Self-Government and Local Finance is amended to increase local autonomy, local boundaries are to be moved to reflect ethnic composition after an upcoming census, and the Laws on the Civil Service and Public Administration are changed so ethnic groups will have equal representation.
The Peace Deal between NATO and the NLA - NATO representative Pieter Feith and Ali Ahmeti, leader of the National Liberation Army, negotiate a separate peace settlement. On August 14 the NLA will say it supports the Framework Agreement and signs a technical agreement with NATO. NATO will disarm the NLA and the guerillas will receive amnesty. About 3,500 NATO soldiers will enter Macedonia, beginning on August 12 with the entry of British and French units.
Results of the Agreements - There are Macedonian and Albanian groups that oppose the Framework Agreement, including the Albanian National Army, a militant group about as old as the NLA, and the Real NLA. Some accuse NATO or the USA of being behind the NLA and ANA. Political changes will be made in Macedonia, but the Framework Agreement will not be implemented fully. By September 27, the NLA will dissolve. Six months of civil war kill 150 to 250 people (including 95 Macedonian police and soldiers), wound 650 or more, and displace 140,000 people. At its peak, the NLA controls about 20 percent of Macedonia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 379-382; Phillips, 2004, pp. 134-136, 161, 204]
Entity Tags: James Pardew, Albanian National Army, Francois Leotard, Ali Ahmeti, Macedonia, European Union, National Liberation Army, Pieter Feith, Real NLA, United States of America, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
RaptureReady logo. [Source: RaptureReady (.com)]In the days after the 9/11 attacks, RaptureReady.com, a web site devoted to the study and predictions of Biblical “end times,” hits a new high of 182 on its “Rapture Index.” The site calls this measure the “Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity.” A score of 145 is labeled “Fasten Your Seat Belts.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 218]
Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on the 700 Club. [Source: Tampa Bay Coalition]During a guest appearance on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, televangelist Jerry Falwell tells listeners who he believes is responsible for the 9/11 attacks: homosexuals, abortionists, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Falwell: “I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters; the Husseins, the bin Ladens, the Arafats, what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, if in fact God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.”
Robertson: “Jerry, that’s my feeling. I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven’t even begun to see what they can do to the major population.”
Falwell: “The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.”
Robertson: “Well, yes.”
Falwell: “And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”
Robertson: “Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.”
Falwell: “Amen. Pat, did you notice yesterday? The ACLU, and all the Christ-haters, the People For the American Way, NOW [the National Organization for Women], etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out on to God in prayer and sang ‘God Bless America’ and said ‘let the ACLU be hanged.’” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001; People for the American Way, 9/17/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 217-218]
In a prayer during the broadcast, Robertson intones: “We have sinned against Almighty God, at the highest level of our government, we’ve stuck our finger in your eye. The Supreme Court has insulted you over and over again, Lord. They’ve taken your Bible away from the schools. They’ve forbidden little children to pray. They’ve taken the knowledge of God as best they can, and organizations have come into court to take the knowledge of God out of the public square of America.” [CNN, 9/14/2001; People for the American Way, 9/17/2001] The next day, after a firestorm of critical response (see September 13-14, 2001), Falwell will retreat somewhat from his remarks (see September 14, 2001), and again three days later (see September 17, 2001). But three years later, he will misrepresent his remarks and once again attack homosexuals (see November 28, 2004).
The response to televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson’s blaming 9/11 on homosexuals, pro-choice believers, and civil liberties groups (see September 13, 2001) is quick and fierce. Even the White House refuses to join Falwell and Robertson in their comments, with a White House spokesman calling the statements “inappropriate” and saying, “The president does not share those views.” Ralph G. Neas, the head of People for the American Way, calls the remarks “absolutely inappropriate and irresponsible.” An American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman says the organization “will not dignify the Falwell-Robertson remarks with a comment.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Lorri L. Jean, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, demands an apology from Falwell. “The terrible tragedy that has befallen our nation, and indeed the entire global community, is the sad byproduct of fanaticism,” she says. “It has its roots in the same fanaticism that enables people like Jerry Falwell to preach hate against those who do not think, live, or love in the exact same way he does. The tragedies that have occurred this week did not occur because someone made God mad, as Mr. Falwell asserts. They occurred because of hate, pure and simple. It is time to move beyond a place of hate and to a place of healing. We hope that Mr. Falwell will apologize to the US and world communities.” [CNN, 9/14/2001]
Televangelist Jerry Falwell backs away from his remarks blaming homosexuals, abortionists, and civil liberties groups for the 9/11 attacks (see September 13, 2001). He says his comments were taken “out of context,” explains that he was “making a theological statement, not a legal statement,” and adds: “I put all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist.… I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize.” But America’s “secular and anti-Christian environment left us open to our Lord’s [decision] not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture… the result is not good.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Falwell uses the Bible to justify his remarks: “I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says ‘living by God’s principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame.’” The ACLU and other civil liberties organizations “have attempted to secularize America, have removed our nation from its relationship with Christ on which it was founded,” he asserts. “I therefore believe that that created an environment which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812.” [CNN, 9/14/2001]
A few days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush invites a small group of evangelical, conservative Christians to the White House to discuss the theological implications of the attacks. James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, says, “Mr President, you and I are fellow believers in Jesus Christ.” Bush nods. “We both believe there is a sovereign God in control of this universe.” Bush again agrees. “Since God knew that those planes would hit those towers before you and I were born,” Merritt says, “since God knew that you would be sitting in that chair before this world was ever created, I can only draw the conclusion that you are God’s man for this hour.” Upon hearing these words, Bush begins to cry. [Unger, 2007, pp. 218-219]
Televangelist Jerry Falwell writes an explanation of his recent comments blaming gays, civil libertarians, and pro-choice advocates for the 9/11 attacks (see September 13, 2001). Falwell writes that though people may have gotten the wrong “impression” from “news reports over the past several days,” he blames “no one other than the terrorists, and the people and nations who have enabled and harbored them, responsible for the September 11 attacks on this nation.” He says his comments “were taken out of their context and reported, and that my thoughts—reduced to sound bites—have detracted from the spirit of this time of mourning.” He says that since the afternoon of the attacks, he has led numerous groups in prayer, from his “Liberty University family of thousands” to his church congregation and, on September 14, at a special Day of Prayer held at the National Cathedral with President Bush in attendance. Falwell says that his statements were “called divisive by some whom I mentioned by name. I had no intention of being divisive. I was sharing my burden for revival in America on a Christian TV program, intending to speak to a Christian audience from a theological perspective about the need for national repentance. In retrospect, I should have mentioned the national sins without mentioning the organizations and persons by name.”
Apology, Then Attack - Falwell then launches into a condemnation of the practice of abortion, and accuses the US of “expell[ing] God from the public square and the public schools.” He accuses the nation of “normaliz[ing] an immoral lifestyle [homosexuality] God has condemned,” adding: “American families are falling apart. Because of our national moral and spiritual decline during the past 35 years, I expressed my personal belief that we have displeased the Lord and incurred his displeasure.” He writes that he was asking his “Christian audience” to follow Biblical teachings and “repent,” and for the “church to heed Proverbs 14:34, which says in paraphrase, ‘Living by God’s principles promotes a nation to greatness; violating those principles brings a nation to shame.’ I was blaming no one but the terrorists for the terror, but I was chastising us, the Church, for a generation of departure from God. I was doing what I have done for nearly 50 years in the pulpit—confronting the culture and calling for national revival.”
'Ill-Timed Comments' - Falwell then turns back towards explaining his remarks, saying his mistake was “doing this at the time I did it, on television, where a secular media and audience were also listening.” He adds: “And as I enumerated the sins of an unbelieving culture, because of very limited time on the 700 Club, I failed to point the finger at a sleeping, prayerless and carnal church. We believers must also acknowledge our sins, repent, and fast and pray for national revival.… [If] my statements seemed harsh and ill-timed, I truly regret this and apologize. But, I repeat, I blame no one but the hijackers and terrorists for the horrific happenings of September 11. But I do believe God’s protection of us as individuals and as a nation is dependent upon our obedience to His laws.” [National Liberty Journal, 9/17/2001] Falwell will make essentially the same arguments three years later; then, he will claim to have included his criticisms of the church in his original remarks, criticisms he today admits he failed to make (see November 28, 2004).
Reverend Franklin Graham. [Source: Trinity Broadcasting Network]Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of renowned televangelist Billy Graham, decries Islam as a “wicked religion” that calls for “the killing of non-Muslims or infidels.” Graham says, referring to the 9/11 attacks: “We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.” Asked to clarify his statement, Graham reiterates his position, saying: “I don’t believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion. When you read the Koran and you read the verses from the Koran, it instructs the killing of the infidel, for those that are non-Muslim.… It wasn’t Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn’t Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith.” American Muslims challenge Graham’s statements. Ali Akber, a North Carolina Muslim who has worked to bring Jews and Muslims together, says Graham’s words are “spreading hatred. It is the same God. We just don’t worship the same way. We all believe in God and charity and worshipping and not doing any evil.” Imam Hassan al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America adds, “Islam never teaches hatred, Islam never teaches terrorism.” The White House distances itself from Graham’s remarks, issuing a statement that says the president “views Islam as a religion that preaches peace” and adding that the terrorists do not represent what Islam teaches. Newsweek religion editor Ken Woodward says: “Obviously, Mr. Graham is tone deaf in this respect. He’s certainly not his father’s son in terms of discretion.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 257; Islam Online, 11/27/2007]
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) says that newsletters printed for decades under his name that racially disparaged black lawmakers such as Representative Barbara Jordan (D-TX) were not actually written by him. He tells reporter S.C. Gwynne: “I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren’t really written by me. It wasn’t my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady.” (Paul’s newsletter called Jordan “Barbara Morondon” and the “archetypical half-educated victimologist” whose “race and sex protect her from criticism.”) The item slighting Jordan was published, Paul says, because “we wanted to do something on affirmative action, and it ended up in the newsletter and became personalized. I never personalize anything.” He attempts to explain why he never publicized his claimed lack of involvement with his own newsletter, saying: “They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them.… I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn’t come from me directly, but they [campaign aides] said that’s too confusing. ‘It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.’” Gwynne writes: “It is a measure of his stubbornness, determination, and ultimately his contrarian nature that, until this surprising volte-face in our interview, he had never shared this secret. It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time.” [Texas Monthly, 10/1/2001; Reason, 1/11/2008] In 1996, Paul admitted to writing the newsletters (see May 22 - October 11, 1996). In 2008, a New Republic article (see January 8-15, 2008) will document a raft of crudely racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and far-right conspiratorial content from years’ worth of Paul’s newsletters (see 1978-1996).
Fox News removes its series on the “art student spy ring” from its website after only two days, in response to pressure from The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and others. CAMERA suggests the reporter “has something, personally, about Israel.… Maybe he’s very sympathetic to the Arab side.” [Salon, 5/7/2002] The head of the ADL calls the report “sinister dangerous innuendo which fuels anti-Semitism.” [Forward, 12/21/2001] Yet there does not appear to be any substance to these personal attacks (and Forward magazine later reverses its stance on the spy ring (see March 15, 2002)). Fox News also never makes a formal repudiation or correction about the series. The contents of the series continues to be generally ignored by the mainstream media, but it makes a big impact inside the US government: An internal DEA communiqué from December 18 mentions the Fox report by name, and warns of security breaches in telecommunications as described in the Fox report. [Salon, 5/7/2002]
Neoconservatives in Washington discuss in their internal memos how Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation. They often cite a book by anthropologist Raphael Patai, titled, The Arab Mind, which took note of Arab culture’s conservative views about sex. In one section of the book, Patai wrote, “The segregation of the sexes, the veiling of the women,… and all the other minute rules that govern and restrict contact between men and women, have the effect of making sex a prime mental preoccupation in the Arab world.” According to one academic source interviewed by Seymour Hersh, the book is “the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior.” Neoconservatives are convinced that “one,… Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation.” [New Yorker, 5/24/2004]
Michael Edward Smith, a well-dressed young man wearing sunglasses and surgical gloves, sits in a parked car across from the Sherith Israel Congregation synagogue in Nashville, Tennessee. Smith has an AR-15 assault rifle, and plans on shooting someone either entering or exiting the building. A passing motorist sees Smith and his rifle and calls the police. When police confront Smith outside his apartment, he refuses to surrender, and manages to break away to his car, where he proceeds to flee down Interstate 65 while holding a gun to his own head. The chase ends in a parking lot outside a pharmacy, where the police find the AR-15, a handgun, ammunition, and surgical gloves in Smith’s car. After learning of the incident, Deborah Lauter of the Anti-Defamation League tells reporters: “The sight of a man pointing an assault rifle at a synagogue is chilling. We are thankful to the person who reported the incident and to law enforcement for their swift actions in apprehending the suspect.” Smith, a member of the violent, neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), has been influenced by two books, both published by Alliance founder William Pierce: The Turner Diaries, which tells of a genocidal race war in a near-future America (see 1978), and Hunter, a novel depicting a lone assassin gunning down Jews and African-Americans (see 1988). Three days later, he is charged with multiple felonies after divulging his ties to the National Alliance and the existence of a small arsenal in his apartment, in a storage facility, and buried on his parents’ land in the country. Authorities find, among other items: an anti-tank rocket; eight firearms, including a sniper rifle; 13 grenades; 13 pipe bombs; over 2,000 rounds of armor-piercing ammunition; smoke bombs; dynamite fuses; and two duffel bags filled with chemicals. They also find copies of both novels and other materials from the Alliance and the Ku Klux Klan, to which he also admits membership. The FBI classifies Smith as a “domestic terrorist.” James Cavanaugh of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) says: “Basically, we’ve got hand grenades, we’ve got assault rifles, and we’ve got a mind full of hate and a recipe for disaster.… Anybody who would stockpile that stuff is certainly on the precipice of using them.” Smith readily admits his admiration for the fictional main chacter of Hunter, Oscar Yeager, who in the first scene of the book assassinates an interracial couple from a vantage point inside his car. And, he says, the National Alliance and the KKK gave him training in “how to make and how to use explosives, [and gave him] sniper and combat training.” Smith tells questioners that he “dislike[s] Jews.” Local activists later tell the FBI that Smith took part in a November 2001 National Alliance rally outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. Authorities later find an email from Smith stating Jews “perhaps” should be “stuffed head first into an oven.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ; Anti-Defamation League, 5/27/2003; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2005] Smith will later plead guilty to four weapons-related offenses. [Anti-Defamation League, 5/27/2003]
Entity Tags: National Alliance, James Cavanaugh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Deborah Lauter, Ku Klux Klan, Michael Edward Smith, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Sherith Israel Congregation, William Luther Pierce
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Six days after the first detainees have arrived from Afghanistan, representatives from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) visit Guantanamo. They meet with the prison commanders on January 21 and recommend a number of improvements. [Washington Post, 6/13/2004] The ICRC has noticed some restrictions on religious expression it objects to. During the first week of the prison’s operation, praying according to Islamic custom is not allowed or is at least prevented. When someone calls out the call to prayers, or Azzan, according to detainee Asif Iqbal, guards respond “by either silencing the person who was doing it, or, more frequently, play loud rock music to drown them out.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 ] Notwithstanding the intercession by the ICRC, religious freedoms apparently continue to be restricted, as Mohammed Saghir, a grey-bearded sawmill owner, will later recall. “In the first one-and-a-half months they wouldn’t let us speak to anyone, wouldn’t let us call for prayers or pray in the room,” Saghir says. “I tried to pray and four or five commandos came and they beat me up. If someone would try to make a call for prayer they would beat him up and gag him.” [Guardian, 12/3/2003]
The Reverend Jerry Vines. [Source: Thomas White]Reverend Jerry Vines, pastor of a large Baptist church in Florida, denounces Islam as being responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and criticizes America’s propensity for “religious pluralism” as making the nation vulnerable to further attacks as well as causing other social ills. In his statement, made to an audience at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Vines insults Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammed: “They would have us believe that Islam is just as good as Christianity,” Vines says. “Christianity was founded by the virgin-born son of God, Jesus Christ. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, the last one of which was a 9-year-old girl.” Muslims do not worship the same god as Christians do, he adds: “And I will tell you Allah is not Jehovah, either. Jehovah’s not going to turn you into a terrorist.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan says after Vines’s remarks that President Bush “believes Islam is a religion that teaches peace. The president believes in religious tolerance and respects people of all faiths.” The day after Vines’s incendiary remarks, Bush addresses the SBC meeting via satellite to extol Baptists’ tolerance, praising their “extraordinary influence” on American history and saying, “Baptists were among the earliest champions of religious tolerance and freedom.” Vines’s remarks echo earlier attacks on Islam by other prominent evangelicals, including Franklin Graham (see October 2001). Other evangelical Christians, including the Reverend Jerry Falwell, rush to support Vines’s remarks, but Jewish leaders and mainstream Protestant groups join American Muslims in denouncing the remarks. Abraham Foxman, the director of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, calls Vines’s remarks “deplorable,” and says such inflammatory language is “not surprising coming from the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has a track record of denigrating and delegitimizing other religions.” [Washington Post, 6/20/2002]
Civil rights division logo. [Source: US Department of Justice]The Bush administration embarks on a program to politicize the Justice Department’s civil rights division (CRD). The CRD is staffed by some 350 permanently employed lawyers who take complaints, investigate problems, propose lawsuits, litigate cases, and negotiate settlements. For decades, the decisions on who should fill these positions have been made by civil servants and not by political appointees. The CRD is an obvious target for politicization, and until now the Justice Department has tried to ensure that no such politicization ever took place. “There was obviously oversight from the front office [where the political appointees work], but I don’t remember a time when an individual went through that process and was not accepted,” Charles Cooper, a former lawyer in the CRD during the Reagan administration, will later recall. “I just don’t think there was any quarrel with the quality of individuals who were being hired. And we certainly weren’t placing any kind of political litmus test on… the individuals who were ultimately determined to be best qualified.”
Hiring Conservatives in Place of Career Lawyers - But Attorney General John Ashcroft changes those rules, without making any sort of official announcement. The hiring committee is not formally disbanded, but it stops having meetings scheduled, and the political appointees begin making career hiring decisions. In 2007, author and reporter Charlie Savage will write, “The result of the unprecedented change was a quiet remaking of the civil rights division, effectively turning hundreds of career jobs into politically appointed positions.” No longer would career attorneys be hired for their civil rights background; instead, lawyers from conservative law schools or from conservative legal organizations such as the Republican National Lawyers Association are given favorable treatment. Some of the new hires worked with Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater investigative team or had worked with other prominent conservatives, including former Attorney General Edwin Meese or Senator Trent Lott (R-MO). Some list themselves as belonging to prominent Christian political organizations that promote socially conservative views such as opposition to abortion and to affirmative action.
Shift towards 'Reverse Discrimination' Cases - After the new hires are in place, the division shifts its focus: instead of working on voter rights, employment discrimination, and other such cases affecting African-Americans and Hispanics, the division begins working to develop “reverse discrimination” cases in favor of whites and Christians. [Savage, 2007, pp. 295-297]
Driving Career Employees Away - Over the next few years, the types of cases pursued by the CRD changes drastically (see 2005, 2006, and 2006), and career attorneys with decades of service begin leaving the division in large numbers. The Justice Department will even encourage older hires to leave by offering them a buyout. Savage will write, “With every new vacancy, the administration gained a new change to use the new rules to hire another lawyer more in line with its political agenda.” CRD attorney David Becker will tell a 2006 NAACP hearing: “Even during other administrations that were perceived as being hostile to civil rights enforcement, career staff did not leave in numbers approaching this level. In the place of those experienced litigators and investigators, this administration has, all too often, hired inexperienced ideologues, virtually none of which have any civil rights or voting rights experience.” Some supporters say that the Bush administration is merely righting an imbalance, where the CRD was previously top-heavy with liberal lawyers interested in protecting African-Americans over other groups, but one of the CRD’s top career lawyers from 1965 through 1994, Jim Turner, says, “To say that the civil rights division had a special penchant for hiring liberal lawyers is twisting things.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 298-299]
Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Civil Rights Division (DOJ), Charlie Savage, Charles Cooper, Bush administration (43), David Becker, Jim Turner, Trent Lott, US Department of Justice, Edwin Meese, Republican National Lawyers Association, Kenneth Starr
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Influential evangelist and political activist Jerry Falwell calls the Prophet Muhammed, the founder of Islam, a “terrorist,” telling a CBS News interviewer: “I think Muhammad was a terrorist. I read enough of the history of his life written by both Muslims and non-Muslims [to know] that he was a—a violent man, a man of war.” In contrast, Falwell says: “Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. I think Muhammad set an opposite example.” After a global eruption of outrage at Falwell’s statements, he issues a backhanded apology: “I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for CBS’s 60 Minutes were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims. I intended no disrespect to any sincere, law-abiding Muslim.” His denunciation of Muhammed came as an answer to what he calls a “controversial and loaded question” at the end of an hour-long interview. The backlash from Falwell’s remarks is severe. At least five people are killed and around 50 injured when Hindu-Muslim rioting over the remarks breaks out in India. Shi’ite Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Iran express their outrage over Falwell’s remarks, with one Iranian cleric saying that Falwell is a “mercenary and must be killed.” Since Falwell’s remarks, hundreds of Muslim protesters will twice gather outside the CBS building in New York City to demand an apology from the network. [CBS News, 10/14/2002] Falwell’s remarks echo earlier denunciations of Islam by other American Christian evangelicals (see October 2001 and June 10-11, 2002).
The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) loses a trademark infringement lawsuit brought against it by the Te-Ta-Ma Truth Foundation, which had successfully trademarked the name “Church of the Creator” years before. Federal District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow originally rules in WCOTC’s favor, but her verdict is overturned on appeal. She orders the group to stop using the name, to give up its Web addresses, and to turn over all printed material bearing the name. Group leader Matthew Hale refuses to comply, and files a lawsuit against Lefkow, claiming that she has ordered the destruction of the group’s Bibles. “If federal judges are to sit in judgment of the people, the people must be able to sit in judgment of them,” Hale says. The WCOTC’s various Web sites urge its followers to picket Lefkow’s church, and refer to her as “a white woman married to a Jew with three mixed grandchildren.” [New York Times, 1/9/2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005] For years afterwards, Lefkow will be plagued by an incessant round of death threats, as WCOTC and other white supremacist organizations publish her name, address, and family photographs on their Web sites along with an array of violent threats. In 2003, Hale will be charged with soliciting her murder (see January 9, 2003). “Underground” radio broadcaster Hal Turner will say on his show that Lefkow is “worthy of being killed,” adding that “it wouldn’t be legal, but in my opinion it wouldn’t be wrong.” In 2005, Lefkow’s husband and mother will be murdered, possibly by Hale supporters (see February 28, 2005). [New York Times, 3/2/2005]
The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) announces that it is moving its headquarters to the small town of Riverton, Wyoming. Many residents and local organizations speak out against the virulently racist and white supremacist “church,” pointing to its pride in its Native American heritage. Thomas Kroenke, the “hastus primus” of the WCOTC, tells a reporter that if his organization had its way: “Well, you wouldn’t have anything, any races, except white races here. That’d be the only real difference—it would just be an all-white community.” Kroenke has lived in Riverton for two years after taking a job as a case worker at the nearby state prison farm; Kroenke lost the position after being named to a leadership position in the WCOTC. Kroenke describes himself as racist, saying: “And what I mean by that is, I felt an affinity for my own race, and a disaffinity… for all the other races. We are for the survival, preservation, and expansion of the white race.” Kroenke is the de facto leader of the organization, as church leader Matthew Hale is in jail for conspiring to kill a federal judge (see January 9, 2003). Fred Baehr, a painting contractor who lives in nearby Lander, says of the WCOTC: “We do not have a right to go and lynch them—we just don’t. But we do have a right to perhaps make them a little less comfortable. And frankly, when it comes to Nazis, I’m a little less concerned with their rights than I am with the rights of, shall I just say, decent people.” Tim Thorson of the Riverton Chamber of Commerce says the move has forced residents to examine their town’s own legacy of intolerance: “There was a time when businesses had signs in their stores saying ‘no Indians.’ That happened here.… Our focus is on trying to let the people that live here know that this is a safe place to be. And give them good reason to feel safe.” [Associated Press, 12/10/2002; National Public Radio, 2/10/2003]
Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), shows up for a contempt of court hearing in a Chicago courtroom based on his refusal to give up his group’s name after losing a trademark infringement lawsuit (see November 2002). When Hale appears, he is arrested for soliciting the murder of the judge who presided over the lawsuit, Federal District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Hale recently claimed Lefkow was prejudiced against him because she is married to a Jew and has children who are biracial. Law enforcement officials with Chicago’s Joint Terrorism Task Force say Hale asked another person to “forcibly assault and murder” Lefkow. FBI spokesman Thomas Kneir says: “Certainly freedom of speech and freedom of religion are important in our society here in America. But the threat of physical violence will not be tolerated.” US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald adds, “Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to solicit murder.” Hale is accompanied in the courtroom by about a dozen followers, many of whom raise their fists in what they call a Roman salute but that is more widely known as a Nazi salute. One WCOTC member, Shawm Powers, says: “This is totally bogus—it’s in our constitutional rights to believe in a religion. We are a bona fide religion, and they are trying to take that away from us. Matt Hale is not a violent man, he doesn’t advocate violence.” Anti-Defamation League official Richard Hirschhaut disagrees, saying: “Matt Hale has been allowed with impunity to engage in terrorist-like activity for four years now. He has had blood on his hands for more than four years. He is now where he should be.” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center calls Hale “the most dangerous American racist of his generation.” Attorney Glenn Greenwald, representing Hale, says he believes the charge against Hale stems from what he calls a misinterpretation of Hale’s statement that “we are in a state of war with Judge Lefkow.” Greenwald says: “They are probably trying to take things he said along the lines of political advocacy and turn it into a crime. The FBI may have interpreted this protected speech as a threat against a federal judge, but it’s probably nothing more than some heated rhetoric.” During Hale’s incarceration, special administrative measures will be imposed to reduce his ability to communicate with his followers. [CNN, 1/8/2003; New York Times, 1/9/2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The press will later learn that Hale solicited the murder from FBI informant Anthony Evola, a Chicago area pizza delivery man who was asked by Hale to distribute racist and anti-Semitic pamphlets to schoolchildren. Evola instead called the Chicago Public Schools to warn them about the racist material, and was later asked to become an FBI informant. In the months that followed, Evola became chief of Hale’s “White Beret” security squad and frequently traveled with Hale. Evola provided FBI officials with an email from Hale soliciting Lefkow’s home address, and a tape recording of a discussion between the two about Lefkow’s murder. On the tape, Evola said, “We going to exterminate the rat?” Hale replied, “Well, whatever you want to do basically.” Evola said, “The Jew rat.” Hale then said: “You know, my position has always been that I, you know, I’m going to fight within the law… but that information has been provided.… If you wish to do anything yourself, you can.” Evola replied, “Consider it done,” and Hale responded, “Good.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2003; New York Times, 3/2/2005; Associated Press, 4/26/2005] In addition, former WCOTC leader Jon Fox will testify that Hale asked him in December 2002 to kill Lefkow and others involved in the legal dispute. [Chicago Sun-Times, 4/14/2004; Chicago Tribune, 4/15/2004]
Entity Tags: Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Chicago Public Schools, Anthony Evola, Abraham Cooper, Glenn Greenwald, World Church of the Creator, Shawm Powers, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Thomas Kneir, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Richard Hirschhaut, Jon Fox, Matthew Hale
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The Pentagon ensures that Marines are sent into combat with pamphlets from an evangelical group titled “A Christian’s Duty in Time of War.” The pamphlet requests that the soldiers pray for George W. Bush, and provides tear-out forms for soldiers to fill in and mail certifying that they have, indeed, prayed for the president. [Carter, 2004, pp. 58-61]
Erica Chase, a member of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), is convicted of plotting to blow up Jewish and African-American landmarks in and around Boston. Her boyfriend, Leo Felton, a member of the small white supremacist group The White Order of Thule, is also convicted of the same set of crimes. Chase is given five years in prison by US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner, who calls the plans “hateful” and “horrible”; Felton, who has served time for attempting to murder an African-American taxi driver, receives nearly 22 years in prison. Prosecutors accused Chase and Felton of plotting to foment a “racial holy war” (see 1973). Chase tells the court that she is sorry for her role in the plot and no longer harbors her racial hatreds. “I didn’t see how ugly and disturbing my life was when I was living in the middle of it. I had to be ripped out of it,” she says. “I have a lot of shame for everything.” The couple was arrested in August 2001 for passing counterfeit bills. Prosecutors said that Felton made the counterfeit money to help fund the plan, which included the use of a “fertilizer bomb” similar to that used in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The defense argued that the two were prosecuted solely for their white supremacist beliefs. [Associated Press, 3/13/2003]
Federal judge Joan Lefkow levies a $1,000/day fine against the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) for failing to comply with a ruling in a trademark infringement lawsuit. The WCOTC was ordered to stop using the name “Church of the Creator” as a result of losing the lawsuit months earlier (see November 2002), and WCOTC leader Matthew Hale is charged with soliciting Lefkow’s murder (see January 9, 2003). The WCOTC now calls itself the “Creativity Movement,” but continues to use the earlier name. Lefkow finds the group in contempt of court and orders its Web sites to be shut down until all trademarked terms are removed from them. An Australian Creativity adherent writes on a Creativity Web forum: “This is blatant discrimination! It has all the hallmarks of being a K_ke conspiracy to weasel that extra five cents out of the White Man, while telling him that he is doing this for the good of the White Race!” Another message on the forum says: “I’ll laugh if I ever get fined $1,000.00. I spit in the eye of the Jew vermin.” The Web site is shut down shortly after the messages are posted. Its hosts explain on another site: “You can thank the jews [sic] for making us waste our time and taking our money. We would mention the people who forced us to redo this site, but they would probably bring us to court because we mentioned their name without their permission.” Other anti-Semitic and white supremacist organizations are allowing the WCOTC to broadcast its messages and sell its wares on their sites. [Anti-Defamation League, 5/1/2003] In October 2003, Lefkow will fine the WCOTC $200,000 for ignoring her April ruling. It is not clear how the group will pay the fine, or even if it can. [Chicago Sun-Times, 10/25/2003]
The House Appropriations subcommittee investigating the Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco (see March 1, 1993 and April 19, 1993) releases heavily edited excerpts from 911 call conversations between federal agents and Davidian members made during the February 1993 raid on the Davidian compound by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). A Dallas FBI agent released edited portions of the tapes to a Congressional investigator, who gave the tapes to the subcommittee members. The Justice Department says the FBI agent, Oliver “Buck” Revell, erred in giving the tape; a department investigation finds Revell did not knowingly do anything wrong in releasing the tape, which is used by the FBI to train negotiators to deal with similar situations. The McLennan County, Texas, Police Department releases unedited versions of the tapes shortly after the House subcommittee makes its tapes public; federal prosecutors who intend to prosecute some of the surviving Davidians (see August 7, 1993) had intended to keep the tapes secret until the trial. Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) asks Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the tape’s initial release, saying: “Who edited the version of the tape given to the House in the first place, and why, in that version, are conversations with David Koresh out of order? Is there a reason why the FBI, for training purposes, would leave out the threatening statements made by the Branch Davidians on the actual tape?” The House subcommittee was told that the tape was an accurate recording of the first half-hour of local police negotiations with Davidian Wayne Martin. “The release of altered tapes that are evidence before a grand jury is an assault on the department’s integrity,” DeConcini writes. “It is essential that this matter be investigated thoroughly and that the individuals responsible receive the most severe penalties available under the law.” The edited tape makes it appear that the 911 call center could not reach BATF agents for almost an hour after the 911 calls commenced. The police tapes feature two unedited hours of conversation between Martin and local law enforcement officials, and show that 911 operators made contact with BATF raid commanders within a half-hour of the first call to the hotline by Martin. The police tapes also indicate that BATF officials worked closely with the 911 call center to negotiate a cease-fire and evacuation of wounded federal agents. [Dallas Morning News, 8/7/1993]
Entity Tags: McLennan County Sheriff’s Department (Texas ), David Koresh, Branch Davidians, Dennis DeConcini, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, House Committee on Appropriations, Janet Reno, US Department of Justice, Wayne Martin, Oliver (“Buck”) Revell
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
A story in the New York Times about captured anti-abortion extremist Eric Rudolph (see April 14, 2005) portrays the sympathy many locals have for Rudolph, and ties Rudolph’s acts of terrorism with the Christian faith as espoused by some. Crystal Davis of Murphy, North Carolina, where Rudolph hid from authorities for five years, tells a reporter: “He’s a Christian and I’m a Christian and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion. Those are our values. And I don’t see what he did as a terrorist act.” Many Murphy residents agree with Davis’s views, and express their sympathy for Rudolph and their disdain for the federal agents who combed the area looking for him. Birdhouse builder William Hoyt says: “We thought it was kind of funny when the feds rolled in here all arrogant. They kept saying they didn’t need our help. It put a lot of people off. Nobody around here condones murder, but I think a lot of people weren’t sure which side to be on.” Some Murphy residents sport T-shirts with the slogans “Run, Rudolph, Run” and “Eric Rudolph—Hide and Seek Champion of the World.” Davis says she would have helped Rudolph had she been given the opportunity. “If he came to my door, I’d give him food,” she says. “That’s just how we are with strangers.” Assistant high school principal Bill Gaither says: “I agree with his views. But not his ways. I’m glad they finally got him.” [New York Times, 6/1/2003] Weeks later, liberal blogger David Neiwert will cite the Times article and ask if Rudolph might well be termed a “Christian terrorist.” Neiwert will write, referring to the “Christian Identity” movement of religious white supremacists and anti-Semites of which Rudolph is affiliated (see 1960s and After): “Both Mrs. Davis and the reporter’s basic question eliminated the distinction between Identity and Christianity—something that has become increasingly easy to do as Identity rhetoric attunes itself to the mainstream, and conservatism itself becomes increasingly bellicose and intolerant. These lines blurred even further as other media reports picked up the ‘Christian terrorist’ idea and played with it.” Washington Post reporter Alan Cooperman asks, “Is he a ‘Christian terrorist’?” and goes on: “The question is not just whether Rudolph is a terrorist, or whether he considers himself a Christian. It is whether he planted bombs at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, two abortion clinics, and a gay nightclub to advance a religious ideology—and how numerous, organized and violent others who share that ideology may be.” Cooperman then quotes a sociology professor from Idaho State University, James Aho, who says he is reluctant to use the term “Christian terrorist,” saying, “I would prefer to say that Rudolph is a religiously inspired terrorist, because most mainstream Christians consider Christian Identity to be a heresy.” If Christians take offense at the juxtaposition of the words “Christian” and “terrorist,” he adds, “that may give them some idea of how Muslims feel” when they constantly hear the term “Islamic terrorism.… Religiously inspired terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon, and every major world religion has people who have appropriated the label of their religion in order to legitimize their violence.… I’m inclined to believe that people who are violent in their inclinations search out a religious home that justifies their violence.” However, Syracuse University professor Michael Barkun says, “Based on what we know of Rudolph so far, and admittedly it’s fragmentary, there seems to be a fairly high likelihood that he can legitimately be called a Christian terrorist.” Barkin has been a consultant to the FBI on Christian extremist groups. [Washington Post, 6/2/2003; David Neiwert, 6/17/2003]
Apparently, the white supremacist ideology formerly thought of as a uniquely American issue has spread to South Africa. Ten years after the collapse of apartheid and whites-only rule in that country, dozens of right-wing, white supremacist groups are being founded in South Africa. Many of them believe that black majority rule is a punishment sent by God because of the disobedience by the Afrikaaner people. They view themselves as descendents of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, whites who are destined to rule over all races and forbidden to mix with other races. Many of these groups echo the Christian Identity ideology (see 1960s and After). Reverend Willie Smith, a former Baptist minister, founded the Lewende Hoop (Living Hope) community in Kroonstad in the Free State in the late 1990s. Smith says: “I looked around and saw the need of my people, the Afrikaaners. They do not know who they are. The other churches are not preaching the truth. But I tell them, you are the people of the Bible. The Bible was written for you.… We strayed from the teachings of the Bible. Our leaders sold us out. They want us to mix with the other races. But it is not working. The other churches are preaching that you must love all. But we don’t want that. We don’t want to overthrow the government. We have to wait for deliverance from the Lord.… We are suffering under this ANC [African National Congress]-communist regime. We want blacks, coloreds, and the other races to return to their traditions. If we rule, it will be a blessing for all of Africa.” Smith’s group allegedly consists of 30 congregations with a total of 6,000 believers. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006]
Posse Comitatus and Aryan Nations leader James Wickstrom (see 1969, 1975 - 1978, 1984, and 2003) tells a reporter in a videotaped interview: “I’d like to see these Jews all be brought to the VA [Veterans Administration Hospital] and wooden chairs be put down on the lawn. Tie the Jews in. Bring these veterans down who have been mutilated… and give them baseball bats and let them beat these Jews to death! Every one of them! Take these chairs and Jews after they’re beaten to death, throw ‘em in the wood chipper! And from the wood chipper let the remains go into a big incinerary [sic] truck, which is right behind the wood chipper, and give them the holocaust they rightly deserve!” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), almost moribund since the jailing of its leader Matthew Hale (see January 9, 2003) and forced to rename itself the Creativity Movement as a result of losing a trademark infringement lawsuit (see November 2002), is taken over by Florida white supremacist Adam Jacobs. Jacobs loses his position after being charged with viciously beating a fellow “Creator” over a period of 11 hours because he believes him to be a “snitch.” The movement again suffers a loss of membership and almost disappears entirely. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
In his monthly newsletter, conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh says that American liberals and Democrats are attacking President Bush for his Christian faith. “So now what does the left attack the president for?” he writes. “His belief in God!… Well, I’m going to predict something. If enough voters hear [Washington Post reporter] Bob Woodward berate Bush for relying on God, get ready for it.… Let them impugn the president of the United States for his admitting that he prays for the safety of the troops and the American people, let them make fun of that. They’re going to pay the price.” Limbaugh offers no evidence that nationally recognized liberals, Democratic Party members, or prominent reporters such as Woodward have criticized Bush for his Christian beliefs. [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 101]
A courtroom illustration of Matthew Hale listening to instructions from Judge John Moody. [Source: Verna Sadock / Getty Images]Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), is convicted of one count of solicitation of murder and three counts of obstruction of justice in regards to his attempt to solicit the murder of a judge (see January 9, 2003). Hale never testified on his own behalf. Defense counsel Thomas Anthony Durkin called no witnesses, saying the prosecution’s evidence was the weakest he had seen in a major case, arguing that Hale was set up by an FBI informant. Durkin says he will appeal, and will prove that prosecutors have been “out to get Hale” because of his suspected involvement in a shooting spree by WCOTC member Benjamin Smith five years ago (see July 2-4, 1999; the jury heard audiotapes of Hale laughing about Smith’s murders and mocking the victims). US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the lead prosecutor in the case, says the trial’s outcome proves “that we will not wait for the trigger to be pulled” before taking action. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005; Associated Press, 4/26/2005]
CNN announces that conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza is a new political analyst for the network. D’Souza became active in conservative politics and punditry as an editor of the Dartmouth Review in the early 1980s, where he authored and published numerous inflammatory articles reviling, among others, blacks, Jews, and gays (see 1981, March 15, 1982, October 1982, and 1983). From Dartmouth, D’Souza went to the White House, where he served as a senior domestic policy analyst in the Reagan administration. He has served as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution, and published a number of books, including 1995’s inflammatory The End of Racism, which progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters described as advancing the idea that “low-income black people are basically ‘pathological’ and that white racism really isn’t racism at all, just a logical response to this ‘pathology.’” D’Souza’s Web site “argues that the American obsession with race is fueled by a civil rights establishment that has a vested interest in perpetuating black dependency”; in a 1995 Wall Street Journal op-ed, he argued that “[t]he best way for African-Americans to save private sector affirmative action may be to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Two African-American conservatives, Glenn Loury and Robert Woodson, resigned from AEI after the publication of The End of Racism and another racially objectionable book, The Bell Curve, by AEI fellow Charles Murray. [Media Matters, 6/8/2004]
After the death of Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler (see July 2004), the organization, already deeply divided and dwindling in size and influence (see Late 2000 - 2001), splits into two rival factions. One is headed by August Kreis in Pennsylvania and the other by Jonathan Williams in Georgia. Kreis and Williams are divided in part over the issue of whether neo-Nazis can find common ground with Muslim terrorists based on their mutual hatred of Jews. In 2005, Kreis tells CNN, “And I want to instill the same jihadic feeling in our peoples’ heart, in the Aryan race, that they [jihadists] have for their father, who they call Allah.” Another Nations leader, Charles Juba, attempts to anoint organization “pastor” James Wickstrom (see 1969, 1984, and 2003) as the group’s chaplain. Wickstrom aligns himself with Juba’s breakaway faction, in what some believe is an attempt to claim leadership in Butler’s wake. Aryan Nations member Floyd Cochran, who will leave the group and renounce its racist teachings, will later say: “Jim Wickstrom has a certain stature in the racist movement—one Juba doesn’t have—and especially among the more religious, the biggest ones that are really into the Christian Identity aspect (see 1960s and After).… With the death of Richard Butler, the Christian Identity aspect of the movement is now more focused on Wickstrom.” Days after Butler’s death, Juba announced he was appointing Wickstrom “Chaplin” (sic) and said the group’s new slogan would be “No Jew left alive in 2005.” However, Wickstrom has powerful enemies within the movement, not the least because in 2003 he eloped with the wife of another Christian Identity preacher, his former friend and colleague Keith Kallstrom. In reaction, Kallstrom vowed to cut off Wickstrom’s head and place it on his mountain, and shortly thereafter was arrested after driving to Michigan from Oklahoma in a pickup truck loaded with firearms and grenades, in an apparent attempt to find and kill Wickstrom. Wickstrom never becomes a full-fledged leader of the group, and though he will continue to broadcast a weekly radio program over the Internet, he will experience a steady decline in his influence among Aryan Nations and other racist, white supremacist groups. Both Kreis’s and Williams’s factions will continue to slide into irrelevance, though Kreis will have some success recruiting members from motorcycle gangs in South Carolina. By 2010, the only remnants of the groups will be small individual cliques and their accompanying Web sites. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 12/2004; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
On a Sunday before the presidential election, a pastor in an unidentified church is conducting a morning service. The pastor asks the registered Republicans in the congregation to stand. About 80 percent of the congregation stands. The pastor then says, “Now, I want you to pray for the sinners who are present.” Author Craig Unger will be told this story in June 2005 by a member of the congregation who is present. Unger is allowed to retell the story under the conditions that no further details about the church, including its name and location, are revealed. [Unger, 2007, pp. 321]
Members of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) picket a revival meeting held by the famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham. WBC members target conservative evangelists such as Graham for not joining them in espousing their “God Hates Fags” message. The protesters call Graham a “Hell-bound false prophet.” [Global Oneness, 2011]
Bob Jones University logo. [Source: Christian College Guide]Bob Jones III, the evangelical conservative president of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, pens a letter to the newly re-elected President Bush praising Bush’s election victory and advocating a more muscular, overtly religious second term. Bob Jones University is known for its ban on interracial dating (since dropped), its ban on dancing, modern music and uncensored Internet access, and its belief that the Pope is the Antichrist. Jones himself is known for denouncing former President Reagan as “a traitor to God’s people” for the sin of choosing as his vice president the current president’s father, George H. W. Bush, whom Jones called “a devil,” and making such statements as “A Negro is best when he serves at the table.” Jones releases the letter on the university Web site and reads it aloud to students during the morning worship service. “In your re-election,” Jones writes, “God has graciously granted America—though she doesn’t deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your… voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly. Don’t equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord and He will honor you.” [Washington Post, 5/4/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 323]
The day after President Bush’s presidential election victory over Senator John Kerry (D-MA), an Associated Press exit poll indicates that 22 percent of voters made their choice because of “moral values”—a higher ranked criterion than the Iraq war, the threat of terrorism, or the economy. The mainstream media seizes on the poll as an indication of a new focus on morality among American voters. “It really is Michael Moore versus Mel Gibson,” says former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, comparing the liberal documentary maker to the actor who has wooed conservatives with his recent film, The Passion of the Christ. News analysts say that singer Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction,” where she showed her right breast for a moment during the February 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, was “the socio-political event of the past year.” Bush campaign manager and White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove says, “I think it’s people who are concerned about the coarseness of our culture, about what they see on the television sets, what they see in the movies.” Conservative columnist Robert Novak uses the poll to claim that “the anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, socially conservative agenda is transcendant.” Author and media critic Frank Rich will note that the interpretation of the poll is transparently false. First, he will point out, if one adds together the 19 percent who chose terrorism and the 15 percent who chose Iraq as the issues that most drove their vote, then it is “clear that national security was of greater concern to Americans than ‘moral values.’” Moreover, the poll itself is suspect: the category of “moral values” is so general as to mean anything from, as Rich will write, “abortion to aiding the poor to being nice to your mother.” According to a Pew Research Center analysis, the over-generalized category of “moral values” is an easy way for voters to choose “none of the above” instead of choosing a specific issue as their single motivator. According to Rich, Pew will find that “when voters were given no menu of suggestions to choose from, Iraq, the economy, and terrorism led by far, and issues that might be labeled as ‘values’ polled in the low single digits.” Worse for the conservative “moral values” argument, 60 percent of those polled actually favored either same-sex marriage or civil unions, and 55 percent support abortion in one form or another. ABC News polling director Greg Langer later notes that the erroneous “moral values” claim “created a deep distortion—one that threatens to misinform the political discourse for years to come.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 150-151] One effect of the new “moral values” perception is the decision by 66 ABC affiliates not to air the World War II film Saving Private Ryan over Memorial Day over fears that the profanity and violence portrayed in the film might result in fines from the Federal Communications Commission (see November 11, 2004).
Three years after he blamed homosexuals, abortionists, and civil liberties groups for causing 9/11 (see September 13, 2001) and apologized for some of his remarks (see September 14, 2001), televangelist Jerry Falwell misstates his remarks on NBC’s Meet the Press. He now claims that when he made his statement, he “likewise” held responsible “a sleeping church, a lethargic church.” However, the transcript and reports of his remarks show he did not make such a claim. Falwell also attacks progressive religious figure Jim Wallis as “anti-America[n]” because Wallis did not support former president Ronald Reagan’s Cold War policies of “peace through strength.” Had Wallis “been the president in World War II,” Falwell says, “we’d all be speaking German now.” Falwell widens his attack to include gay Republicans; when moderator Tim Russert notes that television writer Marc Cherry is a “conservative gay Republican,” Falwell replies, “Well, the fact that he’s a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic Party.” [MSNBC, 11/28/2004]
Stephen Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at a Cupertino, California public school, is prevented by school administrators from selecting passages from historical documents for his students that reinforce his belief that the US is a strictly Christian nation; in return, many media representatives accuse his school district of “banning the Declaration of Independence” from being taught. Williams describes himself as an “orthodox Christian.” He wants his students to learn that America’s “Founding Fathers” were staunch Christians who intended to create a nation based on Biblical tenets, a position not supported by the historical record. After finding few citations in school textbooks to support his beliefs, Williams began giving his students selected passages from a number of historical documents, including William Penn’s “Frame of Government in Pennsylvania,” the Delaware State Constitution, George Washington’s prayer journal, and President Bush’s statement on the recent National Prayer Day, where he told the nation, “Prayer is an opportunity to praise God for His mighty works.” Some of the parents of Williams’s students believed he was attempting to evangelize their children; one parent said, “My daughter came home one day and said, ‘Mr. Williams talks about Jesus 100 times a day.’” Williams’s principal, Patricia Vidmar, began reviewing his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to ensure that he does not proselytize religion to his students. Williams responded with a lawsuit complaining that his free speech and academic freedom had been unduly constrained. (Williams is being represented in court by the Alliance Defense Fund, which has filed several lawsuits challenging the legality of same-sex marriage.) When the national press reports Williams’s situation, conservative pundits and radio hosts begin informing, and misinforming, their listeners and readers about Williams and his teaching; many tell their audiences that the Cupertino school district is “banning the Declaration of Independence.” Fox News talk show hosts Sean Hannity and John Gibson, along with Fox News anchor Brit Hume, Fox News analyst Newt Gingrich, and MSNBC commentator Monica Crowley, all tell their audiences that the school does not allow the Declaration of Independence to be referenced in its classes. The conservative National Lawyers Association accuses Vidmar, whom it terms a “rogue school principal,” of working towards “rul[ing] that the Constitution is unconstitutional.” Some parents, district supporters, and civil liberties advocates say Williams has become a rallying point for conservative Christians eager to, in their words, rewrite American history. Ivory Madison, a legal analyst for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says: “This is the same thing that people have been trying to do for 200 years. The only difference now is that they’re well funded, media savvy, and litigious. It’s a shame that our tax dollars have to be used for a school district to defend the Constitution.” One parent at the Cupertino school says of Williams’s teaching: “This is not about teaching history, this is about indoctrination.… [W]hat would happen if someone whose religion is not a majority religion would be doing this? It isn’t OK [for a teacher] to make a kid feel like he isn’t like you.” Another parent asked the school not to place her child in Williams’s class this year, and says, “[W]hat he’s doing isn’t teaching history. If you were teaching at a church school, that would be great. But he isn’t.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/8/2004; Media Matters, 12/10/2004]
Entity Tags: Monica Crowley, Brit Hume, Alliance Defense Fund, Fox News, John Gibson, Newt Gingrich, Stephen Williams, National Lawyers Association, Ivory Madison, Patricia Vidmar, Sean Hannity
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
A popular image of Adolf Hitler, created in the style of the 2008 Obama campaign poster and using the campaign slogan ‘Yes We Can,’ posted on Podblanc in 2009. [Source: Podblanc / OccupiedOregon (.com)]Avowed white supremacist Craig Cobb (see October 31, 2005) moves to Estonia and founds Podblanc, an Internet-based videosharing Web site. It is similar to YouTube, but Cobb and his supporters refuse to use that facility, calling it “Jew Tube” because its operators censor racist and anti-Semitic content. Podblanc offers over 1,000 channels of video content, including combat handgun training, bomb-making tutorials, a description of security measures at three northern California synagogues, and an audio recording of The Turner Diaries, the infamous race-war fantasy novel (see 1978). The most popular video on the site shows Russian neo-Nazis beheading and shooting Asiatic immigrants; other popular videos show skinheads attacking random Jewish and minority victims. Cobb was a member of the violent World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) until its collapse after its leader, Matthew Hale, was arrested for soliciting the murder of a judge (see January 9, 2003 and 2004-2005). Cobb posted the name and home address of the judge on the internet, which may have led to the murder of her husband and mother (see February 28, 2005). Cobb has also attended events sponsored by the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), and distributes “The Aryan Alternative,” a white supremacist periodical written by Alex Linder, the founder of the Vanguard News Network (VNN), and published by former White Patriot Party leader Glenn Miller. Cobb documents WCOTC, VNN, and other organizations and events on Podblanc. Estonian authorities will force Cobb to leave their country in 2009; in 2010, Podblanc will go dormant when its host decides to refuse to carry its racist and violent content any longer. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2007; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2009; Anti-Racist Canada, 6/25/2010]
Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey are found dead of gunshots to the head in the Lefkows’ Chicago basement. The two are the husband and mother, respectively, of Federal District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who has endured four years’ worth of death threats ever since she ordered the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) to abandon its name as a result of a trademark infringement lawsuit (see November 2002). Authorities are investigating whether members of the Creativity Movement, as the WCOTC is now known, are responsible for the murders. In 2004, WCOTC leader Matthew Hale was convicted of soliciting Lefkow’s murder (see April 26, 2004). Her daughter Laura Lefkow says, “I think she’s very upset with herself, maybe, for being a judge and putting her family in this danger, but there’s no way she should have known.” White supremacists celebrate the murders on their Web sites, while others theorize that Hale’s enemies murdered the two to affect his upcoming sentencing for his crimes (see April 6, 2005). Bill White, the editor of the Libertarian Socialist News, writes: “Everyone associated with the Matt Hale trial has deserved assassination for a long time. I don’t feel bad that Judge Lefkow’s family was murdered today. In fact, when I heard the story, I laughed.” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, says, “We saw what happened the last time Matt Hale got slapped in the face by the system; the price of that was two dead and nine severely wounded.” Potok is referring to the 1999 killing spree by WCOTC member Benjamin Smith in response to Hale’s denial of a law license (see July 2-4, 1999). “Now Matt Hale is about to be sentenced, very probably, to most of his natural life to federal prison. It’s very possible that a Hale follower or sympathizer has decided to fight back.” Hale’s friend Billy Roper, who leads a group called White Revolution, disavows the murders, but draws a parallel between the Lefkow murders and the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992), saying: “We can stand alongside the federal law enforcement community in saying just as they felt a deep regret and sadness over the death of Randy Weaver’s family, so we also feel a deep sense of regret and sadness over the death of Judge Lefkow’s family. If it was the case that someone was misguided and thought that they were helping Matt Hale, then it would be similar in that other people had suffered for one person’s mistake.” Hale’s mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, says her son had nothing to do with the murders: “He had nothing to do with what went on last night. My son is sitting in a hole where he’s not allowed to even speak loud enough to be audible. Common sense would tell you, if he were into having somebody kill somebody—which he is not—would he have somebody go kill the judge’s family just before he’s sentenced? Somebody has done this to make him get an enhanced sentence.” Chicago Police Department official James Molloy says: “There is much speculation about possible links between this crime and the possible involvement of hate groups. This is but one facet of our investigation. We are looking in many, many directions.” [New York Times, 3/2/2005; Chicago Tribune, 3/10/2005] Days later, the Chicago police will say that a man with no connection to Hale’s group may be responsible for the shootings (see March 10, 2005).
Entity Tags: Donna Humphrey, Bill White, Benjamin Smith, Billy Roper, Evelyn Hutcheson, James Molloy, Matthew Hale, Mark Potok, World Church of the Creator, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Michael Lefkow, Laura Lefkow
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
White supremacist Matthew Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), receives a 40-year sentence for soliciting the murder of US District Court Judge Joan Lefkow (see January 9, 2003). Lefkow ruled against Hale’s group in a trademark dispute (see November 2002). Hale is sentenced after a rambling, two-hour statement in which he claims he is the victim. “I have to go back to a solitary cell—I have to go back to hell,” Hale tells Judge James Moody. “They want me to die in a hole.” In his statement, Hale compares the FBI to the Gestapo, says the national news media was out to get him, blames his former lawyer for representing him poorly, and chants the national anthem. He claims that he and Lefkow are “on the same side against these liars.” Moody, unmoved by Hale’s statement, gives Hale the maximum sentence for his crimes. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald argued that Hale’s crime was essentially an act of domestic terrorism and Moody agrees. “Mr. Hale is not concerned about taking someone’s life, but rather how to do it without getting caught,” Moody says. “I consider Mr. Hale to be extremely dangerous and the offense for which he was convicted to be extremely egregious.” After the ruling, Fitzgerald tells reporters, “I put no stock in his claims, the crocodile tears, that he didn’t do anything wrong.” Hale’s mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, tells reporters: “I think it’s absolutely horrible. “Matt’s the only one in there telling the… truth.” [National Public Radio, 4/6/2005; Associated Press, 4/7/2005] Hale will serve his sentence at the Florence, Colorado, “supermax” prison, the same prison where convicted bombers Eric Rudolph (see July 18, 2005) and Ted Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996) are held. [Chicago Sun-Times, 4/28/2005]
Newsweek prints an item in its “Periscope” section that reports an American guard at Guantanamo Bay flushed a detainee’s Koran down a toilet. According to the report, the US Southern Command intends to mount an investigation into the desecration, which violates US and international laws. The report sparks widespread rioting in Pakistan and Afghanistan that results in the deaths of at least 17 people. The Pentagon and the Bush administration immediately blame Newsweek for the riots and the deaths; Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, the senior commander of US forces in Afghanistan, says the report did not spark the Afghan rioting, as does Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Newsweek says the information came from an American official who remains unidentified. “We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the US soldiers caught in its midst,” Mark Whitaker, Newsweek’s editor, writes in a subsequent article. Whitaker adds: “We’re not retracting anything. We don’t know what the ultimate facts are.” The Pentagon denies the report; spokesman Bryan Whitman says: “Newsweek hid behind anonymous sources, which by their own admission do not withstand scrutiny. Unfortunately, they cannot retract the damage they have done to this nation or those that were viciously attacked by those false allegations.” The report is “demonstrably false” and “irresponsible.” Whitman says the report has “had significant consequences that reverberated throughout Muslim communities around the world.” Senior Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita calls Whitaker’s note “very tepid and qualified.… They owe us all a lot more accountability than they took.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan says, “Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care.” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says Newsweek is wrong to use “facts that have not been substantiated.” And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issues the admonishment, “[P]eople need to be careful what they say… just as people need to be careful what they do.” According to Whitaker, while the magazine tries to avoid using unnamed sources when it can, there are instances where sources will not speak to reporters unless their anonymity is guaranteed. The administration source has been reliable in the past, Whitaker says, and, moreover, the reporters of the story, Michael Isikoff and John Barry, received confirmation from both the source and a senior Pentagon official. Whitaker’s explanation notes that Newsweek has chosen not to publish previous reports of Koran desecration at Guantanamo because the sources are former detainees whom it considers unreliable. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that guards and officials at Guantanamo have looked for documentation of the reported Koran-flushing and cannot find it. [New York Times, 5/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 164] The Pentagon will conclude that the Newsweek report is indeed responsible for the riots; Isikoff and Barry’s source for the story will back off on his original claim (see May 15, 2005). A month later, the Pentagon will confirm that at least five instances of Koran desecration at Guantanamo did indeed occur (see June 3, 2005).
Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, John Barry, Hamid Karzai, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Bryan Whitman, Karl Eikenberry, Lawrence Di Rita, Mark Whitaker, Michael Isikoff, Scott McClellan, US Department of Defense, US Southern Command, Richard A. Boucher, Newsweek
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) begins picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, displaying signs such as “God Hates Fags” and “Fag Navy” that insult both homosexuals and soldiers. The church says that God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality and persecuting the church. The church even claims that God chose to use improvised explosive devices—IEDs—to kill American soldiers because of an August 1995 attack on the WBC compound by someone wielding a small explosive device. Fred Phelps, the leader of the WBC, tells Fox News: “God is visiting the sins upon America by killing their kids with IEDs… and the more the merrier. Seventeen hundred so far, to 17,000. We will be ecstatic about [further deaths].” The first funeral picketed by the WBC is that of Corporal Carrie French of Boise, Idaho, who was killed on June 5 in Iraq. Phelps says of French and other slain soldiers, “Our attitude toward what’s happening with the war is [that] the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime.” In 2006, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will observe: “As a result of his amazing vitriol, Phelps has managed to do something few others have—unite Americans from the far right all the way over to the liberal left. Several anti-gay organizations have wondered aloud if he was some kind of plant designed to sully their cause. Be that as it may, the funeral picketing has prompted a number of patriotic groups to create motorcycle escorts to shield mourners from the Phelps crew, and to drown out their anti-gay chants with their engines. Numerous municipalities are weighing laws to prevent funeral pickets. But nothing has stopped Phelps, whose message, ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers,’ remains unchanged.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2006; Global Oneness, 2011; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] In 2006, Phelps will say, “Military funerals are pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom and play taps to a fallen fool.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012]
A Koran kept for detainees’ use at Guantanamo. The surgical mask is provided to keep the Koran off the floor, and the guards from touching the book. [Source: GlobalSecurity (.org)]The Pentagon confirms that at least five incidents of deliberate and accidental Koran desecration have occurred at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon and White House recently denied a Newsweek report of one such incident. Both lambasted the news magazine for printing the claim without what it called sufficent proof, and blamed Newsweek’s reporting for sparking lethal riots in Pakistan and Afghanistan (see May 6-9, 2005 and May 15, 2005). While the Pentagon and White House denunciations of the Newsweek report were timed to garner extensive media attention, the Pentagon report is released to the press and the public at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, ensuring that it will not make Friday evening newscasts and, as author Frank Rich will later write, “be buried in the weekend papers.” (The Pentagon denies trying to downplay the report.) In the documented incidents, guards stepped on, kicked, and in one case urinated on Korans owned by the detainees. The urination incident is described as accidental—according to the report, a guard urinated near an outside air vent and his urine was caught in the airstream and carried into a prisoner’s cell. The detainee, who was also splashed, was given a fresh garment and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded. In another instance, guards throwing water balloons got detainees’ Korans wet. In a third instance, a two-word obscenity in English was written on the inside cover of a Koran, though the investigation could not determine whether a guard or a detainee wrote the phrase. In a fourth incident, an interrogator kicked a detainee’s Koran (see February 26, 2002-March 7, 2002). In a fifth incident, a contract interrogator stepped on a detainee’s Koran during questioning; the contractor is later fired for misconduct. Four other complaints of Koran desecration are not confirmed. “Mishandling a Koran at Guantanamo Bay is a rare occurrence,” says Brigadier General Jay Hood, commander of the Guantanamo Joint Task Force. “Mishandling of a Koran here is never condoned.” Hood says that no evidence of a Koran being flushed down a toilet, as Newsweek reported, has been found. Hood has already been caught in at least one misstatement; he claimed before the report that four of the five instances took place before January 2003, when written procedures covering handling of religious materials were implemented. The report says that four of those five incidents actually took place after January 2003. Captain Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman for the task force, says he cannot explain Hood’s contradictory statement. “Maybe he misspoke,” Weir says. “I’m not sure why he would have put it that way.” Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says that the Hood report confirms that US guards handle the Koran with respect and dignity. “The Southern Command policy of Koran handling is serious, respectful, and appropriate,” he says. “The Hood inquiry would appear to affirm that policy.” [New York Times, 5/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 166]
A photograph of Doug Hanks (left) attending a March 2005 protest of the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag in Charlotte. [Source: Pam's House Blend (.com)]A candidate for Charlotte, North Carolina’s city council drops out of the race after the press learns that he has posted over 4,000 comments to the white supremacist Web site Stormfront (see March 1995). Doug Hanks, seeking the Republican nomination for one of four at-large council seats, claims the postings were fictional and designed to win white supremacists’ trust as he researched a novel he was writing. He says the book was also meant to appeal to white supremacists. “I needed information for the book and some other writings I was doing,” Hanks tells a reporter. “I did what I thought I needed to do to establish myself as a credible white nationalist.” In one June 1, 2005 posting, he said that blacks should be treated like “rabid beasts.” Hanks says his self-published novel, called Patriot Act, takes themes from The Turner Diaries, (see 1978), an inflammatory “future history” novel that tells of a white supremacist overthrow of the US government and the genocidal extermination of minorities thereafter. On his Web site, he describes himself as a general contractor, author, model, and actor. Mark Pellin, the editor of the weekly Rhinoceros Times who interviewed Hanks, says Hanks never mentioned a book during their interview: “At no point did he indicate that it had anything to do with a persona he took on or was researching for the book. He tried to explain the quotes as they were for heritage, not hate.” Hanks continued posting on Stormfront well after the book was published. Hanks says: “I was asked to write a column here and there. But what I should have done when I began running for office was to separate the two. Unfortunately, it has blown up in my face.” [Pam Spaulding, 8/5/2005; Associated Press, 8/6/2005]
Craig Cobb. [Source: The Liberty Lamp (.com)]Avowed white supremacist Craig Cobb attempts to disrupt the viewing of the body of Rosa Parks, the celebrated African-American civil rights figure, who is lying in state in the US Capitol Rotunda. Over 50,000 people wait in line to view her body. Cobb accosts many of them while they stand outside the Rotunda; many later recall being horrified and offended by the racist epithets stated by the stringy-haired man in horn-rimmed glasses carrying a videocamera. Cobb apparently delights in offending and angering the people in line, telling them: “Rosa Parks was a sh_tskin communist. I’m here to celebrate her death.” He is eventually escorted away by Secret Service agents. Cobb is a neo-Nazi who later founds Podblanc, an Internet-based videosharing Web site (see Late 2005 or Early 2006 and After). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2009]
A Christian group sues a public library for preventing religious organizations from using its facilities to hold worship services. The library says it is following the constitutional separation of church and state. The Justice Department’s civil rights division (CRD) files a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the Christian group, claiming that the library violated its civil rights. The brief is written by a 2004 political hire to the CRD, a former clerk for conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (see October 31, 2005 - February 1, 2006) while he was an appeals court judge and a member of two groups that advocate integrating Catholic religious practices into law and society (see Fall 2002 and After). [Savage, 2007, pp. 298]
Ariel Sharon, shortly before suffering a stroke. [Source: New York Times]Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson says that a recent stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is divine punishment for “dividing God’s land.” [Associated Press, 1/5/2006] Sharon is in a deep coma after suffering what doctors say is a severe stroke. Sharon, in critical condition, is assumed to be unable to return to public life. His deputy, Ehud Olmert, is named acting prime minister. [New York Times, 1/5/2006] On his television program, The 700 Club, Robertson says: “God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says ‘This is my land,’ and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, ‘No, this is mine.’” Sharon ordered Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Robertson adds that Sharon is “a very tender-hearted man and a good friend” and he is saddened to know that Sharon is so debilitated. However, he says the Bible “makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who ‘divide my land.’” Sharon “was dividing God’s land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU (European Union), the United Nations, or the United States of America.” Robertson implies that God also struck down former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated after working to give land to the Palestinian people (see November 4, 1995). “It was a terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless he was dead,” Robertson says. The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, issues a statement urging Christian leaders to distance themselves from the remarks. “It is outrageous and shocking, but not surprising, that Pat Robertson once again has suggested that God will punish Israel’s leaders for any decision to give up land to the Palestinians,” says ADL director Abraham Foxman. “His remarks are un-Christian and a perversion of religion. Unlike Robertson, we don’t see God as cruel and vengeful.” Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State says a religious leader “should not be making callous political points while a man is struggling for his life. Pat Robertson has a political agenda for the entire world, and he seems to think God is ready to take out any world leader who stands in the way of that agenda.” [Associated Press, 1/5/2006] “Those comments are wholly inappropriate and offensive and really don’t have a place in this or any other debate,” says White House spokesman Trent Duffy. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calls Robertson’s statement “completely outrageous, insulting, and inappropriate.” Sharon “is fighting for his life,” Reid says. “He and his family deserve our thoughts and prayers, and I hope Mr. Robertson will offer them after he apologizes.” [MSNBC, 1/6/2006]
Israel cuts American Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson out of a plan to build an evangelical Christian heritage center along the Sea of Galilee, in apparent retribution for Robertson’s recent statement that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was given a stroke by God as punishment for giving Israeli land to Palestinian settlers (see January 5, 2006). Deputy Tourism Minister Rami Levy says, “From our perspective, such a statement made for a person that is lying in a hospital bed is outrageous.” Robertson led a group of Christian evangelicals in planning the $50 million center, a joint venture with the state of Israel. The center is to be built along the Sea of Galilee, where Christians believe Jesus walked on water. The project will continue without Robertson’s participation, Levy says, adding, “Same joint venture, just the players are going to be changed.” The Reverend Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, calls the decision “a blow to evangelical-Israeli relations.” For the project to go forward, Haggard says, evangelical leaders “must exercise sensitivity and grace towards the people and leadership of the nation of Israel.” [CNN, 1/12/2006]
Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, still embroiled in controversy over his attempts to disprove the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002 and July 6, 2003), attends the National Day festivities in Morocco. While standing alone, he is approached by an American who identifies himself as a “leading member of the Washington evangelical movement.” Wilson expects to be reviled and lambasted, as has happened so many times before during his encounters with members of the Christian right. Instead, the man grasps his hand and whispers, “You should know that there are many of us that support you.” A surprised Wilson asks why, and the man replies, “[B]ecause we believe in truth, and we know that this government has lied.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 174-175] Wilson will not identify the evangelical; it is not clear that he knows the man’s identity.
The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) announces its intention to picket the funerals of five Amish girls murdered in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse. The organization agrees to abstain from picketing in return for an hour of airtime on talk show host Mike Gallagher’s radio program. WBC leader Shirley Phelps-Roper tells Fox News host Sean Hannity that the Amish girls “did deserve to die.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012] “The Lord your God is ramping up the issues, is smiting this nation,” she says. “What he did with one stroke on that day, sending a pervert in—because America is a nation of perverts—it’s appropriate he sent a pervert in to shoot those children. The Amish people were laid to an open shame because they are a false religion.” Phelps-Roper says that the girls also deserved to die because Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell had committed “blasphemous sins” against the WBC. Rendell had criticized the church for protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed overseas (see June 2005 and After) and has signed legislation restricting protests at funerals. [New York Times, 10/6/2006; Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/2009]
Six American Muslim religious leaders (imams) are forced off of a US Airways jetliner soon after boarding. The plane was scheduled to leave around the time of evening prayers and the imams decided to pray off to the side of the gate before boarding. This apparently made some passengers nervous and they reported it to a flight attendant who then, with the captain, asked the six Muslims to leave the plane. When they refused, the police were called and they were led away in handcuffs. [Associated Press, 11/21/2006]
Roger Ailes, the founder and chairman of Fox News (see October 7, 1996), makes a joke to an audience of news executives: “It is true that Barack Obama is on the move,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf and said, ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?’” The joke is a deliberate conflation between the names of presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) and Osama bin Laden. Ailes has Steve Doocy and the other hosts of his network’s morning news show Fox and Friends begin making similar jokes. Fox insiders will later note that while the banter between Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Gretchen Carlson appears to be mostly ad-libbed, it is actually highly structured; Ailes uses the show as one of the primary vehicles to get his daily message into what reporter Tim Dickinson will call “the media bloodstream.” Ailes meets with Doocy, Kilmeade, and Carlson every day before the 6:00 a.m. start; a former Fox News deputy will later say: “Prior to broadcast, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson—that gang—they meet with Roger. And Roger gives them the spin.” Doocy is the first Fox News figure to publicly state that Obama attended a radical Islamist madrassa as a child, a falsification that begins circulating on the Internet around this same time (see October 1, 2007). [New York Magazine, 5/22/2011]
The Creativity Alliance logo. [Source: Wikimedia]After the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) renames itself the Creativity Movement and nearly dissolves (see 2004-2005), a splinter group calling itself the Creativity Alliance forms. It is formed from former members of the earlier WCOTC, and claims no alliance with the Creativity Movement, though, like its parent organization, it views Ben Klassen (see 1973) as its founder. It has a more informal organizational structure than the older organization, with individual members expected to find at least one receptive white person to join them in the formation of a local chapter. The Alliance claims to eschew violence and says it is not involved in “the ‘White Power’ social scene,” but a 2008 article from its Web site uses racial slurs against African-Americans and Jews, and ends with the call: “White man fight! White man fight! White man fight!” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
Bishop Thomas Tobin, the head of Rhode Island’s Catholic diocese, informs US Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) that he is now denying him the sacrament of Communion over his support for abortion rights. Tobin will publicly confirm his action in November 2009. He will also say he advises Kennedy not to take Communion from any Catholic priest. According to his 2009 statement, Tobin tells Kennedy it would be “inappropriate” for him to continue receiving Communion, “and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.” Kennedy is the son of US Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and a product of the most prominent Catholic family in American politics. He will reveal Tobin’s ban to a Rhode Island reporter, and say Tobin implemented the ban “because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official”; Tobin will then issue a statement confirming his decision. Tobin will claim to be victimized by Kennedy’s revelation, and say that his discussion with Kennedy was “pastoral and confidential.” Tobin will say, “I am disappointed that the congressman would make public my request of nearly three years ago that sought to provide solely for his spiritual well-being.” He will conclude: “I have no desire to continue the discussion of Congressman Kennedy’s spiritual life in public. At the same time, I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever he attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the church, or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry.” In October 2009, Kennedy will criticize Catholic bishops for threatening to oppose health care reform legislation if it does not include restrictions, which will prompt Tobin to call Kennedy’s position “unacceptable to the church and scandalous to many of our members.” CNN will report that “most bishops and priests oppose using communion as a ‘political weapon.’” [CNN, 11/23/2009]
Representative Ron Paul, profiled in a New York Times article, answers a question about his connections to the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961, 1978-1996, August 4, 2008 and December 2011). “Oh, my goodness, the John Birch Society!” Paul replies in what the reporter calls “mock horror.” “Is that bad? I have a lot of friends in the John Birch Society. They’re generally well educated and they understand the Constitution. I don’t know how many positions they would have that I don’t agree with. Because they’re real strict constitutionalists, they don’t like the war, they’re hard-money people.” [New York Times, 7/22/2007] The JBS is, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a prominent right-wing extremist group that has accused a number of lawmakers, including former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, of being “closet Communists,” and promotes “wild conspiracy theories” such as the “international Jewish” conspiracy to control the global economy and the idea that the World War II Holocaust never happened. The JBS has been a pioneer in what an analysis by Political Research Associates (PRA) will call “the encoding of implicit cultural forms of ethnocentric white racism and Christian nationalist antisemitism rather than relying on the white supremacist biological determinism and open loathing of Jews that had typified the old right prior to WWII.” PRA will note, “Throughout its existence, however, the Society has promoted open homophobia and sexism.” [Political Research Associates, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/17/2010]
An anonymous chain email circulating through the Internet falsely claims that presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) “was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, calls the accusation intended to promote a “Manchurian Candidate-style conspiracy theory” about Obama’s birth, his religion, and his citizenship. The email accurately notes that Obama’s father was African and born a Muslim (see January 11, 2008). Obama’s stepfather was Indonesian and raised as a Muslim. However, PolitiFact notes, both men were not religiously observant (Obama has described his father as a practicing atheist). Obama’s American mother was agnostic at best. Obama has said that he grew up with virtually no religious traditions. He has been a practicing Christian for decades (see January 6-11, 2008). “Madrassa” is an Arabic word for “school,” but Americans generally understand the word to mean a school where anti-Western Islamic ideology is taught. The email falsely claims that Obama attended a “madrassa” that engaged in a “RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world.” PolitiFact notes: “Westerners typically understand Wahabism to be an austere form of Islam based on a literal reading of the Koran. So is that the type of school Obama attended?” Obama attended a secular public school in Indonesia; a press investigation found the school to be “so progressive that teachers wore miniskirts and all students were encouraged to celebrate Christmas.” The school has never taught Wahabism or any other form of “fringe” Islam. News reports accurately indicate that Obama’s school registration form lists Obama’s religion as “Muslim,” but the form has several other errors, and, PolitiFact notes, “it seems reasonable to assume that he was registered as Muslim simply because his stepfather was Muslim.” Obama also attended a Catholic school in Indonesia for several years. PolitiFact concludes that the email is “a wholesale invention designed to frighten voters.” [St. Petersburg Times, 10/1/2007]
An anonymous chain email circulates throughout the Internet claiming that newly elected President Barack Obama took the oath of office for his former position as a US senator on a Koran, the holy book of Islam, and not a Christian Bible. Obama is a Christian (see January 6-11, 2008), though many of his opponents have insisted that he is a “covert Muslim” or Islamist radical (see April 18, 2008). The email misspells the name as “Kuran,” though it is either spelled Koran or Qu’ran. Two press reports from January 2005 confirm that when Obama was sworn into office as the junior senator from Illinois, he took the oath on his family Bible. The Obama presidential campaign has confirmed that Obama used his family Bible. Vice President Dick Cheney, in his role as president of the Senate, administered the oath. PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, concludes: “We suspect this false claim was inspired by the 2007 swearing-in of Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), an American convert to Islam and the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison used a Koran that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, borrowing the rare book from the Library of Congress. It goes without saying that Ellison is not Obama. And with its intent to inflame, we find the email’s allegation not only false, but pants-on-fire wrong.” [St. Petersburg Times, 12/19/2007]
Daniel Pipes, the director of the Middle East Forum and a fellow of the conservative Hoover Institution, writes that presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) is a “lapsed Muslim.” Pipes bases his argument largely on a Los Angeles Times article that was debunked by the Chicago Tribune. Pipes admits that Obama “is a practicing Christian” and “is not now a Muslim.” But, he continues, Obama was a Muslim in his childhood, and may well be considered a murtadd, or apostate, who converted to another religion from Islam and is now a target of retribution. Pipes notes Obama’s repeated denials that he ever practiced Islam, even as a child, and then asks: “What is Obama’s true connection to Islam and what implications might this have for an Obama presidency? Was Obama ever a Muslim?” Pipes writes that even someone who does not practice Islam is still considered a Muslim by many in the faith, and goes on to say that because Obama uses his middle name of “Hussein,” he is sending coded signals to Muslims that he is, indeed, one of them. He concludes by asking: “[H]ow would more mainstream Muslims respond to him, would they be angry at what they would consider his apostasy? That reaction is a real possibility, one that could undermine his initiatives toward the Muslim world.” [FrontPage Magazine, 12/26/2007; Media Matters, 1/16/2008] Pipes’s assertions that Obama is a “lapsed Muslim” will be thoroughly debunked (see January 22-24, 2008), as have his assertions that Obama’s church advocates any form of “black nationalism” or “separatism.” [Media Matters, 11/29/2007]
The sanctuary of Trinity United Churco of Christ. [Source: Chocolate City (.cc)]PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, investigates claims that Democratic senator Barack Obama (D-IL), a presidential candidate, belongs to “a racist, anti-American church.” The investigation concludes that Obama’s church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, “teaches black empowerment, not racism, and that it claims Africa as its ethnic heritage.” Anonymous emails “ricocheting around the Internet” claim that Obama should not be president because his church is “anti-American” and “scary,” and, somewhat contradictorily, that Obama is not a Christian, but a “covert Muslim” (see December 19, 2007 and January 11, 2008). The emails began within hours of Obama’s Democratic primary win in the Iowa caucuses. One email declares: “If you look at the first page of their Web site, you will learn that this congregation has a nonnegotiable commitment to Africa. No where [sic] is AMERICA even mention [sic]. Notice too, what color you need to be if you should want to join Obama’s church… B-L-A-C-K!!!” PolitiFact writes: “It’s the latest salvo in the email wars—anonymous missives launched into cyberspace seeking to frighten voters away from presidential candidates in the guise of friendly warnings. Typically they use kernels of truth, then launch into falsehood.” Chicago historian Martin Marty, a white religious expert who has attended Trinity United services in the past, says: “There’s no question this is a distortion.… Whites are highly accepted. They don’t make a fuss over you, but you’re very much welcomed.” PolitiFact finds that Trinity United is one of the larger black “megachurches” in the US, preaches a message of black self-reliance, and has as its motto, “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian.” The church does have a “nonnegotiable commitment to Africa.” However, it has no racial standards for its members, and does have white and other non-black members. Obama is a member who has attended regularly for years, though with the travails of recent presidential campaigning, his attendance has fallen off in recent weeks. The main focus of the email vitriol, aside from Obama, is Trinity’s senior pastor Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who preaches passionately and focuses on what he calls “black liberation theology.” Obama has written in his memoir, The Audacity of Hope, that it was Wright’s preaching that inspired him to convert from a secular agnosticism to Christianity during the 1980s. He titled his memoir after one of Wright’s sermons. PolitiFact finds, “Trinity’s commitment to Africa appears to be more a statement of philosophical orientation than of political support for any particular African country,” and notes that the church’s Web site states, “Just as those of Jewish heritage advocate on behalf of the state of Israel, and those of Irish heritage advocate on behalf of Ireland, and those of Polish descent for Poland, so must we of African descent care about the land of our heritage—the continent of Africa.” Divinity professor Dwight Hopkins, an African-American member of Trinity, describes the church as “highly evangelical and Bible-based.” The preaching, he says, tends to be “common-sense folk wisdom laced with theological sophistication.… There’s singing and shouting and people get happy. It’s an old-fashioned, mainstream down-home church that somehow is captured in this 8,000-person congregation.” John C. Green, a political science professor, says scholars do not view black liberation theology as racist, but some outsiders may hold that opinion. “A black empowerment theology could be seen as having a racist element because it isn’t neutral in regards to race,” he says. “The person who wrote this email obviously has very strong feelings about this.” In February 2007, Obama said of his church and his faith: “Commitment to God, black community, commitment to the black family, the black work ethic, self-discipline, and self-respect. Those are values that the conservative movement in particular has suggested are necessary for black advancement. So I would be puzzled that they would object or quibble with the bulk of a document that basically espouses profoundly conservative values of self-reliance and self-help.” In recent weeks, Obama has distanced himself somewhat from Wright and Trinity, because, his campaign says, he wishes to avoid bringing an overwhelming influx of media attention onto the church. The campaign said in a statement, “[B]ecause of the type of attention it was receiving on blogs and conservative talk shows, he decided to avoid having statements and beliefs being used out of context and forcing the entire church to defend itself.” Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity has called Trinity’s teachings “divisive,” and engaged in what PolitiFact calls “a spirited debate” with Wright on one of his broadcasts. Conservative ethicist Michael Cromartie agrees with Hannity, saying: “It’s too strong to call it racist but at the same time, it is a form of identity politics or identity theology, which insists you white people can come to this church, but you won’t get it.” Trinity has stated: “There is no anti-American sentiment in the theology or the practice of Trinity United Church of Christ. To be sure, there is prophetic preaching against oppression, racism, and other evils that would deny the American ideal.” Green is reminded of the 1960 presidential election, when many opponents of candidate John F. Kennedy attacked Kennedy for being Catholic. “But we didn’t have the Internet back then,” he says. “This kind of communication has always gone on, but it moves much faster now.” [St. Petersburg Times, 1/6/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 1/6/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 1/11/2008]
The New Republic writes a January 8, 2008 article detailing years of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and far-right conspiratorial content in the newsletters of libertarian Representative Ron Paul (R-TX—see 1978-1996). [New Republic, 1/8/2008] Hours after the article is published, Paul issues a statement, which reads in part: “The quotations in the New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts. In fact, I have always agreed with Martin Luther King Jr. that we should only be concerned with the content of a person’s character, not the color of their skin.” After citing his admiration for another civil-rights era icon, Rosa Parks, Paul continues: “This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It’s once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary [where Paul is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination]. When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.” [Reason, 1/8/2008] Most reactions are strongly negative. Nick Gillespie of the libertarian magazine Reason calls the newsletters’ content “stunning,” “odious,” and “jaw-dropping.” Gillespie adds: “I don’t think that Ron Paul wrote this stuff but that really doesn’t matter—the newsletters carried his name after all.… It is hugely disappointing that he produced a cache of such garbage.” He calls Paul’s response “unsatisfying on about a thousand different levels.” [Reason, 1/8/2008] Radley Balko, also of Reason, writes that he “find[s] the prospect that Paul never read the newsletter implausible.” Reason senior editor Brian Doherty, who wrote a recent cover story enthusing over Paul’s candidacy, now writes that Paul’s “campaign’s reaction to this has been politically disastrous and given the third-rail nature of accusations of racism, Ron Paul’s campaign was likely fatally wounded.” [New Republic, 1/15/2008] David Boaz, a senior official of the libertarian Cato Institute, notes that Paul’s response indicates he is essentially unfit to be president, seeing as Paul’s defense has been, “I didn’t know what my closest associates were doing over my signature, so give me responsibility for the federal government.” Boaz writes that few at the Cato Institute were supportive of Paul even before the newsletters’ content became widely known: “We had never seen the newsletters that have recently come to light, and I for one was surprised at just how vile they turned out to be. But we knew the company Ron Paul had been keeping, and we feared that they would have tied him to some reprehensible ideas far from the principles we hold.” Paul may well have not written the newsletters, Boaz notes, “[b]ut he selected the people who did write those things, and he put his name on the otherwise unsigned newsletters, and he raised campaign funds from the mailing list that those newsletters created. And he would have us believe that things that ‘do not represent what I believe or have ever believed’ appeared in his newsletter for years and years without his knowledge. Assuming Ron Paul in fact did not write those letters, people close to him did. His associates conceived, wrote, edited, and mailed those words. His closest associates over many years know who created those publications. If they truly admire Ron Paul, if they think he is being unfairly tarnished with words he did not write, they should come forward, take responsibility for their words, and explain how they kept Ron Paul in the dark for years about the words that appeared every month in newsletters with ‘Ron Paul’ in the title.” Boaz notes that while many Paul supporters are angrily speculating about “conspiracies” leading to the expose of the newsletters (see January 12-15, 2008), they are not denying that Paul’s newsletters actually contained that content. Because of the content of these newsletters, Boaz writes, Paul “and his associates have slimed the noble cause of liberty and limited government.” [Cato at Liberty, 1/11/2008]
Syndicated conservative radio host Michael Savage, asserting the oft-debunked claim that Democratic candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim (see January 22-24, 2008), gives Obama’s name as “Barack Madrassas Obama,” referring to schools that teach radical Islam. As reported by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Savage also repeats the falsehood that Obama was schooled in an Indonesian madrassah. [Media Matters, 1/11/2008]
PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, debunks Internet claims that Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), a presidential candidate, is a covert Muslim whose middle name is Mohammed. The claims appear to be sourced from anonymous emails circulating throughout right-wing blogs and organizations. PolitiFact writes: “First off, Barack Obama’s middle name is not Mohammed; it’s Hussein. He was named after his father, a Kenyan who came to the United States from Africa as a student.” PolitiFact also verifies that Obama is not a Muslim, “covert” or otherwise. Obama is a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago (see January 6-11, 2008). PolitiFact notes that the emails contradict themselves, on the one hand making the claim that Obama is a Muslim and on the other attacking his membership in Trinity United. Obama campaign spokesman Robert Gibbs has said, “To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago.” [St. Petersburg Times, 1/11/2008; St. Petersburg Times, 1/11/2008] PolitiFact does further investigation and again debunks the claims months later (see April 18, 2008). PolitiFact has already debunked earlier claims that in 2005, Obama took his Senate oath of office on a Koran, when in reality he used his family Bible (see December 19, 2007).
At least one supporter of far-right libertarian Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) argues that a recently published article in the New Republic that exposed the overtly racist and conspiratorial content in Paul’s newsletters (see 1978-1996) was the result of a conspiracy by “beltway libertarians” from the Cato Institute to discredit Paul. According to Thomas DiLorenzo, the Koch family (see 1979-1980), who provide much of the funding for the Cato Institute (see 1977-Present and 1981-2010), is behind the conspiracy. “Proof” of this conspiracy, according to DiLorenzo, is that James Kirchick, the author of the article, has said he found many of the newsletters in the University of Kansas library; Charles Koch “is a major patron” of that university. DiLorenzo asks, “How on earth would a kid just out of college know to go to a library in Kansas, of all places, to dig up such stuff?” DiLorenzo goes on to say that he “recognized a paragraph [in Kirchick’s article] that was identical to one written on several occassions by one of the especially hate-filled Beltway losers who works at a DC ‘think tank’ on his spleen-venting personal blog. Either he wrote it or coached the author.” Author David Bernstein, who notes that the Cato Institute is preparing to publish a book of his, speculates that Kirchick may have used an Internet database called Wordcat to find the Paul newsletters, and writes, “Even ‘kids just out of college’ often know how to use the Internet, I believe.” And Kirchick calls DiLorenzo’s conspiracy theorizing “comically credulous.” [New Republic, 1/8/2008; Thomas DiLorenzo, 1/12/2008; David Bernstein, 1/12/2008; New Republic, 1/15/2008] DiLorenzo publishes his theory on the blog of former Paul chief of staff Lew Rockwell, who runs the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank in Alabama closely allied with Paul. [Thomas DiLorenzo, 1/12/2008] A week after the publication of the first New Republic article, Paul will deny having virtually any involvement with his newsletters (see January 16, 2008).
Mike Huckabee. [Source: mikehuckabee.com]Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and outspoken fundamentalist Christian, tells Michigan voters that the US Constitution should be amended to reflect what he considers to be Christian values. Huckabee says, “[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that’s what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards.” Based on the rest of his speech, it appears Huckabee is referring to his desire to pass constitutional amendments outlawing abortion and defining marriage as being strictly between a man and a woman. [MSNBC, 1/15/2008]
A September 2007 photo of Ron Paul and Don Black, the former Klansman who runs the racist Stormfront.org Web site. [Source: BTX3 (.com)]An article in the libertarian newsletter Reason discusses the controversy surrounding the racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic material printed in newsletters issued by US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) from 1978 through at least 1996 (see 1978-1996). The controversy has erupted in recent weeks after an article by the New Republic publicized the newsletters and prompted Paul’s disassociation from those publications (see January 8-15, 2008). Paul, a self-described libertarian, has waffled on claiming authorship of the newsletters; he has gone from saying in 1996 that he wrote all the material in them (see May 22 - October 11, 1996) to more recently claiming that he wrote virtually none of their content and knew little of what was being published under his name for nearly 20 years. (In 2001 he told a reporter that in 1996 he did not admit that a ghostwriter wrote most of the material because to do so would have been “confusing” for voters (see October 1, 2001); this year, Paul is claiming to have virtually no knowledge of anything printed in the newsletters.) In mid-January, he told a CNN reporter that he had “no idea” who wrote some of the racially inflammatory rhetoric in his newsletters, and said he repudiated the flagrantly bigoted material printed therein.
Conservative Libertarian Said to Be Paul's 'Ghostwriter' - According to Reason reporters Julian Sanchez and David Weigel, some libertarian activists, including some close to Paul, name Paul’s “ghostwriter” to be Llewellyn “Lew” Rockwell Jr. Rockwell is the founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank in Alabama with which Paul has maintained close ties. Rockwell was Paul’s Congressional chief of staff from 1978 through 1982, and was vice president of Ron Paul & Associates, which published two of Paul’s newsletters before its dissolution in 2001. Sanchez and Weigel note, “During the period when the most incendiary items appeared—roughly 1989 to 1994—Rockwell and the prominent libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist ‘paleoconservatives,’ producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters unearthed by the New Republic.” Rockwell is to this day a close friend and adviser to Paul, accompanying him to major media appearances, promoting his presidential candidacy, publishing his books, and selling Paul’s writings and audio recordings. Rockwell has denied writing any of the newsletters’ content, and refused to be interviewed by Sanchez and Weigel. He has called discussion of the newsletters “hysterical smears aimed at political enemies” of the New Republic. Paul himself calls the controversy “old news” and “ancient history.” A source close to the Paul presidential campaign says Rockwell indeed wrote much of the newsletters’ content, and says: “If Rockwell had any honor he’d come out and I say, ‘I wrote this stuff.’ He should have done it 10 years ago.” Former American Libertarian (AL) editor Mike Holmes says that Rockwell was Paul’s chief ghostwriter as far back as 1988, when Rockwell wrote material for AL under Paul’s name. “This was based on my understanding at the time that Lew would write things that appeared in Ron’s various newsletters,” Holmes says. “Neither Ron nor Lew ever told me that, but other people close to them such as Murray Rothbard suggested that Lew was involved, and it was a common belief in libertarian circles.” A Rockwell associate, Wendy McElroy, says Rockwell’s identity as Paul’s ghostwriter is “an open secret within the circles in which I run.” Timothy Wirkman Virkkala says he and members of the libertarian magazine Liberty, which he used to edit, knew that Rockwell wrote material under Paul’s name, as did Rothbard on occation.
Change in Strategy: 'Outreach to the Rednecks' - Sanchez and Weigel note: “The tenor of Paul’s newsletters changed over the years. The ones published between Paul’s return to private life after three full terms in Congress (1985) and his Libertarian presidential bid (1988) notably lack inflammatory racial or anti-gay comments. The letters published between Paul’s first run for president and his return to Congress in 1996 are another story—replete with claims that Martin Luther King ‘seduced underage girls and boys,’ that black protesters should gather ‘at a food stamp bureau or a crack house’ rather than the Statue of Liberty, and that AIDS sufferers ‘enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.’” They also note that the newsletters were a significant source of funding for Paul’s campaigns. Former Paul campaign aide Eric Dondero, who after leaving the organization in 2004 has become one of Paul’s most notable critics, says that Paul’s staff learned between his stints in Congress that “the wilder they got, the more bombastic they got with it, the more the checks came in. You think the newsletters were bad? The fundraising letters were just insane from that period.” Ed Craig, the president of the libertarian Cato Institute, says he remembers a time in the late 1980s when Paul boasted that his best source of Congressional campaign donations was the mailing list for The Spotlight, the conspiracy-mongering, anti-Semitic tabloid run by Holocaust denier and white supremacist Willis Carto until it folded in 2001. Rockwell and Rothbard broke with the Libertarian Party after the 1988 presidential election, and formed what the authors call “a schismatic ‘paleolibertarian’ movement, which rejected what they saw as the social libertinism and leftist tendencies of mainstream libertarians. In 1990, they launched the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, where they crafted a plan they hoped would midwife a broad new ‘paleo’ coalition.” Rockwell wrote in 1990 that his new libertarian movement must embrace overtly conservative values, including values he called “right-wing populism.” The strategy was codified in what he called “Outreach to the Rednecks,” and embraced overtly racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic views. Rockwell looked to Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), the leader of the 1950s “Red Scare,” and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke as models for the new strategy. The newly, flagrantly racist material in Paul’s newsletters were apparently part of Rockwell’s “paleolibertarian” strategy. The strategy encompassed values espoused by Paul, including what the authors cite as “tax reduction, abolition of welfare, elimination of ‘the entire ‘civil rights’ structure, which tramples on the property rights of every American,’ and a police crackdown on ‘street criminals.’” Rockwell envisioned Paul as the leader of the new movement until 1992, when Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan convinced Paul to withdraw from the 1992 campaign and back his candidacy instead. At that point, Rockwell called himself and his fellow “paleolibertarians” “Buchananites” who could choose “either Pat Buchanan or David Duke” to represent them.
Change in Tone - In recent years, Paul has suspended his newsletters, disavowed the racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism of their content, and presented himself as a conservative libertarian who idolizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and embraces people of all races and religions. Sanchez and Weigel conclude that Paul is trying to bring a new generation of minorities into the libertarian fold, and write: “Ron Paul may not be a racist, but he became complicit in a strategy of pandering to racists—and taking ‘moral responsibility’ for that now means more than just uttering the phrase. It means openly grappling with his own past—acknowledging who said what, and why. Otherwise he risks damaging not only his own reputation, but that of the philosophy to which he has committed his life.” [Reason, 1/16/2008]
Entity Tags: Mike Holmes, Julian Sanchez, Joseph McCarthy, Eric Dondero, Ed Craig, David Weigel, David Duke, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Willis Carto, Patrick Buchanan, The New Republic, Wendy McElroy, The Spotlight, Ron Paul and Associates, Reason, Murray Rothbard, Timothy Wirkman Virkkala, Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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