The chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., has accused Jesse L. Jackson, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Benjamin L. Hooks and other black leaders of leading black Americans this year into a "political Jonestown" in which they committed political suicide as President Reagan easily won reelection with scant black support.
Pendleton made the remark last week in a speech to an Akron, Ohio, business group, in which he also said, "The black leaders have made an industry out of racial pol-itics . . . .
"They created this industry and sold their only product -- race -- primarily to the government and to the liberal white establishment who are riddled with fear and guilt," said Pendleton, who is black. "These leaders made and make lots of money, have gained social acceptance and attract broad-based media attention. Still there is no parity but there's still poverty . . . .
"I say to America's black leadership, open the plantation gates and let us out," Pendleton added. "We refuse to be led into another political Jonestown as we were led during the presidential campaign. No more Kool-Aid, Jesse, Vernon and Ben. We want to be free."
Jackson was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. Jordan is former president of the National Urban League and Hooks is executive director of the NAACP. Pendleton also spoke out last week against a cause dear to the women's movement -- comparable pay. At a news conference he called it "probably the looniest idea since Looney Tunes."
Discussing his Akron speech yesterday, Pendleton said from his real estate office in San Diego, "If Ronald Reagan wanted to be purely political, blacks wouldn't get a thing" because they voted 9 to 1 for Walter F. Mondale. "But because of pigment," Pendleton went on, Reagan "is supposed to let these people down easy. He knows if he doesn't, he'll hear that he is a bigot. So the saving grace is white guilt."
Pendleton has been feuding with black leaders since he became chairman of the commission. In a speech to the National Urban League during the campaign, Jordan characterized Pendleton, the former director of the San Diego Urban League, as "living proof that our mistakes live on to haunt us . . . . But I do sympathize with him for serving his White House masters in a distasteful cause." Jordan has called for Pendleton's resignation.
Under Pendleton's leadership, the civil rights panel has reversed its stand on several key issues. For the first time, it has expressed opposition to hiring quotas and school busing to achieve integration and repudiated the charge that Reagan has been unfair to minorities because his budget cuts affected proportionally more blacks than whites.
Pendleton yesterday dismissed critics who said that Reagan made little effort to win black voters and that there were few blacks in his campaign and almost no blacks working with him in the White House.
"They didn't carry the water or put up the money in the 1980 election when those relationships were being formed," Pendleton said. "You've got to carry water in politics. This is no affirmative-action program. It's an equal-opportunity program to carry water and give money. Why is there something innate or a genetic strand in black folks that makes us believe we got to see somebody black there to get some of the action? . . . . It's not their fault none of us showed up."
Pendleton said he was not asking blacks to join the Republican Party but said Jackson and other black leaders have "taken the Democratic Party to the brink," where white Democrats have deserted it, leaving it to "Jesse and a few special interest groups."
Jackson was not available for comment, but Jordan, a Washington lawyer, said Pendleton was wrong to conclude that the president did not need to address black concerns.
"What Clarence Pendleton does not understand is that in a democracy the elected leader is leader of all the people, including those who did not vote for him," Jordan said. "And that includes millions of whites who did not vote for him. Would [Pendleton] suggest that white people who didn't vote for Reagan be singled out for punishment? That is dumb, and he knows better."