The John Birch Society has removed John G. Schmitz from its 30-member national council, capping a long, cold winter for the California state senator from sunny Orange County.
Schmitz had served on the Birch Society council for more than a decade, but a spokesman hinted today that the organization, which is no stranger to controversy, found Schmitz a bit too controversial.
In late December, the state Senate Rules Committee stripped Schmitz of a committee chairmanship and vice chairmanship and fired him from a state commission, and today the committee is meeting again on Schmitz, this time to decide whether to spend state funds to defend him in a libel suit.
Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti (D-Los Angeles) has said, "The last place I'd like to spend the taxpayers' money is defending Sen. Schmitz." Roberti said the committee is likely to approve the spending, however, because if Schmitz loses "we'll get stuck with the damages."
The chill began to set in for Schmitz last fall when he described women who had attended a committee hearing on abortion legislation as "bulldykes" and "lesbians" with "hard, Jewish and (arguably) female faces." He described one feminist leader, Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, as a "slick butch lawyeress."
Feminists were angry. Jews were angry. Liberals were angry, and so were many of Schmitz' senate colleagues. The disciplinary action by the Rules Committee followed. So did the $10 million libel suit, filed by attorney Allred, who is married and has a 20-year-old daughter.
John McManus, director of public relations for the John Birch Society, a far-right-wing political organization based in Massachusetts, said the society's action did not spring from "any specific statement" but rather a desire to clear up any confusion that Schmitz might be acting as a Birch spokesman.
"We are well aware of several controversial remarks he's made," McManus said. (Last fall Schmitz created a furor with his statement that the United States might be in need of a "good" military coup if President Reagan's programs fail.)
Schmitz, who is campaigning for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate, is a colonel in the Marine Corps reserve. So is Rep. Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey Jr., one of his opponents in a crowded field. Schmitz complained that "the commies in the media" list McCloskey "as a Marine colonel. I get listed as a Bircher. I'm more colonel-ly than he is."