Barbour, others chided for speaking before CCC

The Clarion-Ledger/October 14, 2004
By Jerry Mitchell

Six years after a firestorm over the Council of Conservative Citizens, a national magazine released today chides Gov. Haley Barbour, state Supreme Court Justice Kay Cobb, U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker and other Mississippi elected officials for speaking before the group.

And at least one state lawmaker is a member of the 15,000-member council that the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report describes as a white supremacist organization far outside the conservative mainstream.

The magazine says the CCC denigrates African Americans as "genetically inferior," complaining about "Jewish power brokers" and accusing immigrants of turning America into "a slimy brown mass of glop." (The entire article appears online at

Barbour's spokesman, Pete Smith, said the governor denounces racism from the council or anyone else. "The governor as well as the governor's office doesn't support any white supremacist or racist views," he said.

Asked if Barbour plans to speak again to the organization, he replied, "I wouldn't think so."

In 1998, U.S. Sen. Trent Lott came under fire for having spoken several times to the council, telling members they stood "for the right principles and the right philosophy." By the next year, Jim Nicholson, who headed the Republican National Committee, was asking party members to resign from the group because it held racist views.

The council's Web site says the organization promotes "the interests of European-Americans" and posts articles describing African Americans as genetically inferior and driven to crime and welfare: "Mississippi is toting a load of fat blacks on welfare. Though disgust is a natural reaction when some blubbery welfare queen buys her pork chops and cream pies with food stamps, remember that the government is subsidizing this gluttony."

A CCC editorial tells readers: "If the South seizes upon queer marriage and beheads that serpent, then a new era for States Rights will commence. ... By the Grace of God, queer marriage may be the petard upon which Brown v. Topeka (the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that desegregated public schools), and all other pernicious civil rights regulations, will be blasted down the memory hole."

State Rep. Tommy Woods of Byhalia said he's been a member of the council for the past several years. He said he joined because he opposes abortion and other liberal ideas.

"We're just really dedicated to preserving our Constitution and our American way of life," he said. "I know there's a lot of folks that don't agree with me. I don't think we ought to just let anybody come into the U.S."

While he believes the needy should be helped, regardless of race, he sometimes gets upset at what he spots outside the local welfare office. "You drive by and see the new automobiles and SUVs," he said. "In most instances, they're white. I tend to have a feeling that it's being abused."

Race had nothing to do with his joining the organization, he said. "One of the best friends I ever had in this world was a black man. I led him to the Lord before he died. He worked for me for 35 years."

He said he's never viewed the organization's Web site. When read excerpts of some online articles, he said those had obviously been written by "those way off, right-wing folks, as far as I'm concerned."

Despite such articles, he believes the council is far from white supremacist. "Contrary to what a lot of folks say, it doesn't have anything to do with racism," Woods said. "We've had other races come to our meetings. I can't say we've got any members."

In his 2003 campaign, Barbour spoke before the council-sponsored political rally in Blackhawk and was photographed with council leaders.

When that photo later appeared on the council's Web site, Barbour was criticized for not asking for the photo to be removed.

Barbour, who was Republican National Committee chairman when Lott was embroiled in the controversy, told reporters he knew nothing about the council.

Claims of ignorance about the council's racist views can no longer fly, said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report. "It's almost impossible for a politician and particularly a Republican to not know about the Council of Conservative Citizens scandal because of what the head of their own party said. I can't say what's in each of these politicians' heads, but I think some politicians are simply pandering to white supremacists for political support."

The Intelligence Report reported Wicker attended a Sept. 23, 2000, meeting in Byhalia of the West Tennessee and Marshall County chapters of the council. Wicker would not comment to the publication, and he did not comment to The Clarion-Ledger.

The Intelligence Report said Justice Cobb attended the same Byhalia event and introduced a council leader named Virginia Abernethy, who later told the Arizona Daily Star she was a white "separatist" who preferred to be "with my own kind."

Cobb told the Intelligence Report she was invited to speak and saw the group as "ultra-conservative, mostly older, white, rural citizens."

Cobb said Wednesday her perception may have been wrong.

"I don't support racism. Never have," Cobb said.

Cobb said she didn't know Abernethy and was just asked to introduce her. On the campaign trail, you go where you've invited and you spend your time sharing your views with people, not listening to theirs, she said.

Over the decades, many political candidates, Republican and Democrat, black and white, have attended the Blackhawk rally. The now-defunct white Citizens' Council, which began in Mississippi in 1954 to combat court-ordered desegregation, originally sponsored the rally.

In 1985, the main founder of the Citizens' Council, Robert Patterson, joined others in forming the Council of Conservative Citizens, using the defunct group's mailing list to recruit members. The new council has supported the rally since.

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