Rep. Barr Rejects Segregation Supporters
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 12, 1998; Page A4
Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) yesterday disassociated himself from the racial views of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and said he had no idea some of its leaders support segregation when he agreed to speak to the group last June.
Barr, a conservative member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an interview that he went to the Charleston meeting of the CCC at the request of Buddy Witherspoon, Republican national committeeman for South Carolina. He said that if he had had any notion of the views toward racial issues held by leaders of the group some view intermarriage as a threat to the white race he never would have attended the session.
Barr said the material he was supplied describing the CCC indicated that it was a mainstream conservative grass-roots group, and that it had endorsements from such political figures as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice (R) and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).
"The group does harbor some very unusual views that neither I nor any member of Congress endorses," Barr said.
Gordon Lee Baum, the national chief executive of the council, headquartered in St. Louis, said Barr was given copies of the organization's magazine, the Citizen Informer, before his speech. Most issues of the Informer have columns attacking interracial marriage, warning that the white race faces the danger of extinction.
"He knew what we were all about before he spoke to us," Baum said. "We don't invite people and let them walk into the dark on us."
Barr's appearance before the group was cited by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, an opponent of President Clinton's impeachment, in a recent complaint to Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). Barr contended the disclosure was politically motivated to discredit him as a leader of the drive to impeach Clinton.
"It's more of the scorched-earth policy of attacking members of the committee being undertaken by the administration and its defenders," he told reporters during a break in the committee's impeachment proceedings. He added: "It is no coincidence that, days before a vote on impeachment, one of President Clinton's most ardent supporters is falsely accusing me of harboring racist views."
Some officials of the CCC and some newspaper articles have also described Lott as a member of the CCC. A spokesman for Lott said the Senate leader "does not consider himself to be a member of this group and has no firsthand knowledge of the group's views."
One of those identifying Lott as a member was Mark Cerr, head of the National Capital branch of the CCC. Cerr described Lott as an active member who has spoken to the group in the past. A Gannett News Service story published a month ago described Lott as "a member" of the CCC.
Cerr also disputed Barr's claim that he was not aware of the views of CCC leaders and members. "Bob Barr knew what we were," Cerr said in a phone interview.
Baum said he is also the Midwest director of the Citizens Council, a group that opposed national desegregation orders. "Our position is more or less synonymous to the NAACP. We speak out for white European Americans," he said.
Cerr summarized his views this way. "I would separate the races by having non-Europeans sent back to the Third World," he said. Cerr, who was born in Northern Ireland, said the United States "was founded by my people, British people, not by Asians or Indians or Negroes, and we are going to take it back."
Cerr said that just before Barr spoke at the Charleston meeting, the racial views of some of the members were made explicit at a "youth panel" chaired by columnist Sam Francis. "Barr sat through that," said Cerr.
Barr confirmed that he heard the youth panel discussion. He said it "gave me serious pause," but he decided, "I was there and I would speak to them and leave."
Barr disputed assertions by Baum that he was given material that showed the racial views held by some of the leaders and members of the CCC.
Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.
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