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“His Campaign Is In Line With Their Beliefs”: Former KKK Grand Dragon Explains Why Racists Like Trump

Donald Trump will never own up to just why racists and white supremacists are flocking to his presidential campaign, or why his rallies are increasingly marred by ugly outbursts of racially fueled violence.

One outspoken anti-racist has an explanation: Trump speaks to the issues that America’s white supremacists care about.

Scott Shepherd, a former Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan—who once called ex-KKK leader David Duke a good friend—sees strong similarities between Duke’s campaigns for public office and Trump’s GOP Presidential bid.

“Their campaigns are pretty much parallel when I look at it,” Shepherd told The Daily Beast in Austin, Texas, where he appeared in the new documentary Accidental Courtesy, about R&B musician Daryl Davis’s crusade to convert Klansmen by befriending them.

“Trump won’t take a direct stand in Israel, and these are the things white supremacists are looking at,” said the soft-spoken Shepherd. “They’re latching onto him because his campaign is pretty much in line with their beliefs.”

Shepherd grew up in Indianola, Mississippi, the birthplace of the White Citizens Council; he was 17 when he pledged himself to the Ku Klux Klan. By the age of 19, he’d reached Grand Dragon status, leading the KKK’s operations across the state of Tennessee.

“I was a very shy, unhappy child with low self-esteem,” he’d explain years later to the IB Times. “I was looking to fill a void.”

There was a time when the college-educated Shepherd was chosen to act as one of the KKK’s public faces. Nowadays he incurs the Klan’s wrath as one of its most visible detractors. He left the group in 1992 after a court-mandated rehab stint stemming from a DUI and gun possession arrest led him to a life-changing epiphany, and devoted himself to making amends for the hate and trauma he’d long perpetuated.

Shepherd shares his story in Accidental Courtesy, which also depicts his friendship with African-American activist Davis, who refers to Shepherd as his “brother.” Decades ago he ran for public office in Tennessee, twice campaigning on a white supremacist platform, and served as the spokesperson and recruiter for onetime KKK leader David Duke’s National Association for the Advancement of White People. His business cards now read: “Scott Shepherd, Reformed Racist.”

The Duke-Trump connection resurfaced again last week when the former KKK Grand Wizard drew favorable comparisons between Trump’s messaging and that of Adolf Hitler.

“The truth is, by the way, they might be rehabilitating that fellow with the mustache back there in Germany, because I saw a commercial against Donald Trump, a really vicious commercial, comparing what Donald Trump said about preserving America and making America great again to Hitler in Germany preserving Germany and making Germany great again and free again and not beholden to these Communists on one side, politically who were trying to destroy their land and their freedom, and the Jewish capitalists on the other, who were ripping off the nation through the banking system,” Duke, who endorsed Trump for president, said on his radio show last week.

Shepherd offered an explanation for why the kind of people attracted to the KKK are also drawn to candidates like Trump. Duke, after all, successfully won one term as a Republican Louisiana House Representative before going on to wage several other campaigns for state governor, U.S. Senate, and the White House.

“They all feel like they’ve not been given a fair handshake, and that their rights have been taken and priority has been given to people of color,” said Shepherd. “But what attracted me to [KKK Imperial Wizard] Bill Wilkinson was a self-emptiness within myself… I was introduced to the Klan and I felt part of something, in a way.”

 

By: Jen Yamato, The Daily Beast, March 19, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Ku Klux Klan, Racists, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Need Smart, Well-Educated White People”: White Power Party Swears Loyalty To ‘President’ Trump

If you live in Iowa and own a phone, you might get a call this week that sounds something like this: “I urge you to vote for Donald Trump because he is the one candidate who points out that we should accept immigrants who are good for America. We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.”

This jarring message is just one part of a robocall recorded on behalf of Donald Trump by The American National Super PAC, created by none other than the leader of The American Freedom Party, a prominent white nationalist organization.

In the last month, the political party— which once tried to revoke the citizenship of every non-white inhabitant of the United States—has evolved from supporting Trump’s candidacy to formally endorsing him for president. That endorsement made American Freedom Party history since they had never before endorsed a candidate outside of their own ranks. But the group that represents “the political interests of White Americans” was willing to make an exception for the Republican frontrunner.

“We do have our own candidate, but Bob Whitaker, our candidate, has told us that it is alright to endorse Donald Trump,” the American Freedom Party’s leader William Daniel Johnson explained in an interview with The Daily Beast.

He first tried to register the group with the FEC as the American National Trump Super PAC in November of last year, but was prohibited from naming it this because the PAC is not a committee authorized by Trump’s campaign. A spokesman for Trump did not respond for a request for comment for this article. Johnson subsequently submitted an amended statement of organization to the FEC on January 6, changing the name to the American National Super PAC just three days before the calls began in Iowa. He also created TheDailyTrump.org, complete with a logo depicting the candidate’s swooping golden locks, devoted exclusively to stories about Trump.

But Iowans have the pleasure of hearing not only Johnson’s voice on the opposite end of the telephone but also Filipino-American Reverend Ronald Tan and Jared Taylor, a spokesman for the Council of Conservative Citizens, which among other things, was cited as the group which inspired Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.

“I think really it has to do with a nagging sense that white Americans have that their country is really slipping through their fingers,” Taylor said when asked why he got involved. “People realize that the United States is changing and it’s changing in a way that they find disagreeable. And it has enormously to do with a change in demographics. It’s becoming a third-world country.”

Taylor, who surmises that most white Americans want a white-only nation, has sung the praises of Trump in the past writing in his own publication the American Renaissance that “this could be the last chance whites have to vote for a president who could actually do something useful for them and for their country.”

He has also concluded in past writing that “Blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization—any kind of civilization—disappears.” His organization is the modern iteration of the White Citizens Council which fought against desegregation in southern schools in the 1950s and 60s. It has referred to African-Americans as a “retrograde species of humanity” and opposes “efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

Taylor said he recorded his part of the robocall upon Johnson’s request and he would consider joining Trump’s campaign if asked to do so.

“It’s marvelously refreshing to find a fella who shoots from the hip,” Taylor said describing his fandom. “Can you imagine Jeb Bush saying something that would actually surprise you?”

Seeing as the PAC is very new, Johnson doesn’t have a long-term strategy with it as of yet. He’s put in $9,000 of his own money and is willing to put in more depending on how well this round of robocalls performs in getting Trump an Iowa caucus win.

“I think it’s a foregone conclusion that Trump will be the nominee and the president,” Johnson confidently said. “I think he will probably not win Iowa unless my efforts are successful.”

While these calls might ring as unwanted and riddled with problematic language to Iowa voters, the Federal Election Commission’s hands are really tied when it comes to dealing with the content of robocalls. According to deputy press officer Christian Hilland, the only time that the FEC is made aware of the existence of robocalls is when a PAC spends $10,000 or more and has to file an independent expenditure report.

“That would be beyond the scope of our regulations,” Hilland said when asked if the FEC would police any unsavory content in political robocalls. “You’d probably have to look at something like the DOJ.”

The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment about whether it had been made aware of the content of these calls.

Geoff Greenwood, communications director for the Iowa Attorney General, told The Daily Beast that “there’s no screening process” when it comes to the distribution of political robocalls in the state. According to Federal Communications Commission standards, the calls are qualified as protected free speech if they go to a landline. If a cell phone receives the calls, the user has to have given express permission to receives calls at that number. A representative for the FCC told The Daily Beast that details of any complaints could only be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

But at least one expert said that the content of the calls could stoke hatred among listeners.

“These robocalls are too brief to engage in a complicated critique of their use of hate,” Dr. Michael S. Waltman, a professor at the University of North Carolina who specializes in hate speech told The Daily Beast. “But they do manipulate the hatred of potential listeners. Jared Taylor’s comments directly state that Muslims are not good for America and that they are not good for America because they are Muslims (he even suggests that Muslims are not well-educated when he claims that we should only admit well educated people to the country).”

There are no legal limits if Johnson wants to expand these calls to New Hampshire, which is something he’s considering, unless someone files a complaint with the FCC. Which means, there could be a lot more of Johnson and his friends throughout the month as the first primary nears.

Those friends include Reverend Ronald Tan, who immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and now supports Trump’s immigration policies.

“I have nothing against building the wall,” Tan told The Daily Beast. “There’s a lot of danger right now with an open-ended policy. I really want to safeguard the process in terms of more stringent background checks. It’s very difficult given the kind of world that we live in right now where terrorism and radical Islam has permeated even social media.”

Tan, who said that he gets invited to churches “all the time,” has no specific place of ministry and rather practices it “through a radio program” at the moment. That show called “For God and Country” and co-hosted by Johnson, is set to air on an Iowa radio station from January 12-January 22, in order to provide voters with “Christian and Nationalist reasons to support Donald Trump,” according to a press release from the American Freedom Party.

For now this ragtag group of white Nationalists can only hope that they are playing a part in what they view as a historical moment in American politics.

“If you were born in the United States and suddenly find that you are living in an outpost of Guatemala or Haiti or Nicaragua or Vietnam, you’re going to be angry,” Taylor said describing the changing demographics of the country. In Trump, voters “see a man who says ‘hold on, let’s look over some of these people who are coming. Maybe some of them are rapists. Maybe some of them are murderers. Maybe some of these Muslims really are undesirables. Simply having said that is a huge earthquake in American politics.”

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, January 11, 2015

 

January 12, 2016 Posted by | American Freedom Party, Donald Trump, White Nationalists | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Flag Hijacked By Modern Segregationists”: Its 20th Century Symbolism Is Clear To Anyone Who Examines The Historical Record

A historian and Southerner says the Confederate flag was not the flag of the Confederacy.

I am a Southerner by both birth and heritage. I come from a long line of poor white cotton farmers on both sides of my family. Three of my four great-grandfathers fought in the Confederate Army. The fourth had been told by his parents that he could join the army when he turned 13; he was on his way from Texas to Virginia to do so when he met his brothers coming home on the road. They told him that Lee had surrendered and the war was over. My grandmother was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and I was enrolled at the age of 6 in the Children of the Confederacy. I mention these credentials because of what I am about to say about the Confederate battle flag.

The flag that is causing such a furor was not “the Confederate flag,” as so many news reports have described it. It was a military flag, originally square in form, designed by William Porcher Miles, an aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard, after the first Battle of Manassas, because Beauregard thought that the Confederate national flag, which had a circle of white stars in a blue canton and three broad stripes, red, white, and red, was too easily confused with the Union flag in the smoke of battle. Miles’ battle flag was never approved by the Confederate Congress and never adopted as a national flag. It never flew over Confederate government offices, or over the Capitol at Richmond.

It was not even prominent among the symbols of the Lost Cause that helped create the myth of the noble suffering South during the years after the Civil War, nor was it celebrated during those years as a hallowed symbol of the Southern past, as apologists for it claim. According to University of Mississippi historian Allen Cabaniss, writing in The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, it was seldom displayed at Confederate reunions or used by any of the societies of descendants of Confederate veterans. My grandmother’s United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter used the first national flag, the one that Beauregard thought could be confused with the Union flag, at their meetings, and she made me a small one out of silk to hang in my bedroom.

Cabaniss describes how the Confederate battle flag emerged “out of limbo” as a symbol of white supremacy and segregation during the Dixiecrat political campaign of 1948, when Strom Thurmond of South Carolina ran for president on a platform of states’ rights and segregation. Newspaper accounts of the States’ Rights Democratic Party convention in Birmingham, Alabama, describe delegates marching into the auditorium under Confederate battle flags as bands played “Dixie.” This set the stage for the adoption of the battle flag by the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Councils across the South as a symbol of their racist opposition to integration. The first time I can remember seeing a picture of the battle flag carried in public was during the Clinton, Tennessee, race riot in 1956, when hooded Klansmen descended on the town and paraded down the main street under the flag.

Next month the Klan will rally at the South Carolina statehouse grounds under the Confederate battle flag. When it was at its peak, in the 1920s, the Klan’s members paraded under the American flag.

The fact is that in the 1950s and 1960s, the Confederate battle flag was hijacked and dishonored by racists and white supremacists who were opposed to the federal government’s implementation of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ending public school segregation. Two years after the decision, in 1956, the Georgia Legislature incorporated the battle flag into the state flag as a protest against integration. The battle flag was first raised over the South Carolina state Capitol on April 11, 1961, to mark the beginning of the Civil War Centennial; in March 1962 the Legislature voted to leave it there as a protest against the civil rights movement. Its 20th century symbolism is clear to anyone who examines the historical record, and it is not something to honor or revere.

In June 1865, two months after the Confederate surrender, a Catholic priest named Abram Joseph Ryan, a former Confederate Army chaplain, published a poem entitled “The Conquered Banner.” Its seven stanzas urged Southerners to accept defeat and furl their flags. The final stanza reads:

Furl that banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently – it is holy –
For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not – unfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people’s hopes are dead.

The poem was once a standard recitation piece in Southern households, including my grandmother’s. The racists of the 1950s should have heeded Father Ryan’s advice. Now it is definitely time to furl that banner.

 

By: Lonn Taylor, Historian at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History from 1984 to 2002 and is the author of The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem: This originally appeared in The Washington Spectator; The National Memo, June 30, 2015

July 1, 2015 Posted by | Confederacy, Confederate Flag, Segregation | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Never Patriotic”: The Real Meaning Of The Confederate Flag

In the intensifying national debate over the Confederate flag, important clues about the seditious symbol’s true meaning are staring us in the face. Dozens of those clues were posted by an angry, glaring Dylann Storm Roof on the “Last Rhodesian,” website, where the alleged Charleston killer pays homage to certain flags – notably those of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, as well as the old Confederacy – while he enthusiastically desecrates another.

Pictures of Roof burning, stomping, and spitting on the Stars and Stripes are interspersed among the photos of him grasping and waving the Confederate battle flag, sometimes while holding a gun. “I hate the sight of the American flag,” he raged in a long screed on the site. “Modern American patriotism is an absolute joke.”

What this racial terrorist meant to express, in crude prose and pictures, is a lesson that the diehard defenders of the Confederate flag should no longer ignore: To uphold the banner of secession is to reject patriotism – and has never meant anything else.

For many years after the Civil War, the symbols of the Confederacy were not much seen outside local museums and burial grounds. The late general Robert E. Lee, a reluctant but justly revered war hero, rejected any post-war fetishizing of the Stars and Bars, which had actually originated as the battle flag of his Army of Northern Virginia. Lee believed it “wiser…not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”But such admonishments were cast aside by the exponents of white supremacy, whose own patriotism was certainly suspect. When the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camelia were revived as racial terror organizations in the 1930s and 1940s, carrying out a spree of cowardly lynchings, their grand wizards found natural allies among the leaders of the German-American Bund — whose funding and fealty were eventually traced to Nazi headquarters in Berlin. Indeed, the Klansmen burned their towering crosses alongside swastika banners at rallies sponsored by the Bund to attack President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In the years following the Second World War, the Dixiecrats led by South Carolina politician Strom Thurmond – and the “uptown Klan” known as the White Citizens Councils that supported Thurmond’s movement – appropriated the Confederate flag as their own standard. Among its greatest enthusiasts was a young radio reporter (and future U.S. senator) named Jesse Helms, whose fawning coverage of Thurmond’s 1948 third-party presidential bid marked him as a rising star of the segregationist right.

As for the White Citizens Councils, those local groups were ultimately reconstituted into chapters of the Council of Conservative Citizens – a notorious hate group that has embarrassed many Republican politicians caught fraternizing with its leaders, and that ultimately inspired Roof with its inflammatory propaganda about black crime and the endangered white race. Headquartered in St. Louis, MO, the CCC festoons itself and its works with the Dixie flag, as does the neo-Confederate League of the South, which still openly advocates secession.

Meanwhile, racist, anti-Semitic agitators such as David Duke and Don Black — both Southerners prominent in Klan and neo-Nazi organizations for decades — have never ceased to manifest their reverence for the Confederacy. Stormfront, the notorious neo-Nazi website founded by Black, continues to promote the mythology and symbolism of the Southern cause, declaring in a June 23 podcast that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery — and that “the attack on southern symbols and heritage such as the Confederate Flag are actually part of an overall Jewish-led attack on European Americans.” Owing to Duke’s influence, in fact, the Confederate flag has served as a substitute for Nazi banners in demonstrations, often violent, by “white nationalists” in Europe — where the symbols of the Third Reich are widely outlawed.

Obviously, not every American who has displayed the Dixie flag endorses the treason and bigotry that it now represents to so many other Americans. There are sincere patriots, like former senator James Webb of Virginia, who still insist that it is only a remembrance of the valor of their ancestors. But over the decades, its appropriation by traitors and bigots has provoked little noticeable protest from the more innocent exponents of respect for Southern heritage. Today, the Charleston massacre has left it standing irrevocably for the most brutal and criminal aspects of that heritage – and it is more deeply irreconcilable with American patriotism than ever.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, June 26, 2015

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Domestic Terrorism, Hate Crimes, Patriotism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alert The Media: Newt Gingrich Will Never Be President

It’s beginning to look like when Haley Barbour shuffled off into the Mississippi sunset, saying he just couldn’t commit to a 10-year presidential crusade, he left his draft campaign playbook sitting on a garbage can, and Newt Gingrich picked it up. Barbour, you’ll recall, was trying out a new approach to race in the Obama era: Jim Crow wasn’t “that bad,” the white-supremacist White Citizens Councils kept down the KKK, and nobody could make him denounce an effort by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to dedicate a license plate to KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, either. “I don’t go around denouncing people,” declared the man who denounced Democrat Ronnie Musgrove for efforts to remove the Confederate flag from Mississippi’s state flag. I said at the time that Barbour was trying out the notion that post-Obama, people — particularly white people leaning Republican — are ready for an approach that says let’s quit all this whining about racism, it wasn’t that bad, it’s time to get back to the business of cutting taxes for the rich and programs for the poor.

Well, Newt Gingrich seems to have wandered by the garbage can to pick up Barbour’s draft playbook, and it’s all unfolding as planned. He’s getting hit for calling President Obama “the food stamp president”; even David Gregory heard the racial imagery in the term, given the way Republicans have long loved to associate welfare programs with black people. Ronald Reagan famously railed against Cadillac-driving “welfare queens” and “strapping young bucks” buying “T-bone steaks” with food stamps; Barbour actually praised Head Start, because some of the kids in it “would be better off sitting up on a piano bench at a whorehouse than where they are now.” I called Gingrich’s remarks “coded racism” yesterday, and today right-wingers were up in arms, pointing out that most food stamp recipients are white. This is absolutely true of most welfare programs, which is why the GOP association of welfare with black people has always seemed, well, racist.

But let me be clear: I might not have paid attention to Gingrich’s “food stamp president” jibe had it not come along with a panorama of images designed to make clear Barack Obama is blackity black black. Praising right-wing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Gingrich said he’ll make the U.S. more like Texas, while Obama only “knows how to get the whole country to resemble Detroit.” In the speech to Georgia Republicans where he tried out the “food stamp president” slur, Gingrich also told the bastion of the old Confederacy that 2012 would be the biggest election since 1860 — you know, when Abraham Lincoln got elected and the South began to secede over slavery, commencing the Civil War. He also suggested the U.S. might need to bring back some kind of voting test, banned under the Voting Rights Act. Last year, of course, Gingrich denounced Obama’s “Kenyan anti-colonialist behavior,” which made him “outside our comprehension” as Americans, spreading the lie that Obama inherited angry African anti-colonialism from his absent African father, though he was raised by his white mother and grandparents. Oh, and he headed the drive to label Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor “racist” when she was nominated in 2009.

So let’s review: Welfare slur? Check. Tie to a troubled, mainly black city? Check. Specious association with African anti-colonialism? Check. Dire reference to Lincoln and the start of the Civil War, while campaigning deep in the heart of Dixie? Check. Suggestion we need a voter test? Check. Oh, and for good measure, calling liberals concerned about racial injustice “racist”? Check. Awesome: They’ve hit pretty much every way the GOP has used to divide Americans by race in the last 200 years!

Great job, Newt. You’ve developed the perfect platform to run a spirited GOP campaign that attracts a cadre of aggrieved white people. You’ll never be president of the United States, but you’ll be the champion of the declining share of the country that still thrills to what we used to call dog-whistle politics: coded varieties of racism only understood by their intended audience. And all the efforts by Gingrich defenders to claim I’m the racist are just funny. One of Andrew Breitbart’s minions is leading the charge, and he lamented Monday morning on Twitter: “Would prefer to hammer Newt today over throwing Ryan under the bus, but @joanwalsh, @davidgregory, & @ebertchicago had to go & do this.” (Roger Ebert was kind enough to Tweet my Sunday Gingrich story.)

I’d advise the Breitbart gang to get back to hammering Gingrich over Paul Ryan’s politically suicidal budget plan; they should focus on the shard of people who want to debate whether Gingrich or Ryan is the leader who can lead their party off a cliff. Anyway, they’ve mistaken me for someone who cares what they have to say. Gingrich is doubling down on racial politics, and I’m going to continue to call it out when I see it.

Oh, and this is one in an occasional series of pieces on folks who will never be president, which began when Sarah Palin unraveled over the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. I didn’t get to Barbour or Mike Huckabee; they realized they would never be president all on their own. It seems silly to write the same piece on Donald Trump; it’s like saying “pigs will never fly.” But I’m sure there will be a few more to come.

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Conservatives, Democracy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Newt Gingrich, Politics, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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