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John Ashcroft, too extreme for Missouri

John Ashcroft Sought White Supremacist Political Support

Mon, 29 Jan 2001 08:49:04 -0800

Attorney General Nominee John Ashcroft Too Extreme For Missouri, Too Extreme For the Country, Says the Director of Missouri Citizens Group

* John Ashcroft's 28-year public record, which includes seeking out political support from white supremacist groups, reveals more than four days of Ashcroft's 'happy talk' during Senate confirmation hearings.

President Bush's nomination of former Missouri Republican Senator John Ashcroft to head the Justice Department has raised strong objections by civil rights, women's and gay and lesbian groups. A hero of the conservative right, Ashcroft readily admits that if he could pass a single law, he would outlaw abortion, even in cases of incest and rape. His record of opposition to desegregation legislation and his campaign to block the nomination of an African American judge to the federal bench speaks to his insensitivity to issues of race, say his critics.

Opponent assert Ashcroft's endorsement of an avowedly pro-Confederate magazine, the "Southern Partisan," labeled by some as white supremacist, should be sufficient grounds to question this nominee's qualifications for such an important position.

Narrowly defeated by Missouri Democrat Mel Carnahan, who died just weeks before last November's election, leaders of the Christian Right and other conservatives successfully lobbied President-elect Bush to nominate Ashcroft for attorney general. After a week of confirmation hearings and some tough questioning, Ashcroft claims he will uphold the law of the land despite his strongly held views. But some senators were skeptical of what they described as a "confirmation conversion."

Between The Lines' Denise Manzari spoke with John Hickey, the executive director of the Missouri Citizen Education Fund, who spoke about why he believes that if John Ashcroft is too extreme for Missouri, he's too extreme to head the Justice Department of the country.

John Hickey: We started paying attention to John Ashcroft _as part of our right-wing monitoring project. We looked at militia, Christian Identity and violent anti-choice groups, and in that research we found that John Ashcroft started popping up as somebody who was reaching out to white supremacist groups for political support. There are several instances where John Ashcroft jumped out at us. Former Senator Ashcroft did an interview with the Southern Partisan magazine in mid-1998 and in this interview, he committed to promote Jefferson Davis, who, of course was the president of the Confederacy. John Ashcroft said that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate leadership did not fight for a perverted agenda.

Denise Manzari: That would be something you would think that he would remember. When he was questioned during the hearings, he began by saying he had no recollection of the Southern Partisan magazine or the interview. And then after continued questioning, he did finally say that he remembered.

John Hickey: In the interview, John Ashcroft praised Southern Partisan magazine, so in the interview, he displayed a knowledge of what the Southern Partisan magazine is. He said, "Your magazine also helps set the record straight; you've got a heritage of doing that." So for Ashcroft to say that he doesn't remember just doesn't ring true. It's just not a true statement. I think Ashcroft was in a corner because there was no way he could explain his statements so he had to pretend like he didn't remember them.

I think Ashcroft's visit to Bob Jones University was another attempt to build his support amongst far-right activists in South Carolina and in the South as a whole. For people who don't remember Bob Jones University, it's a school that for most of its history, has refused to admit any black students whatsoever. It's been in the news recently because of its ban on interracial dating, but for almost 50 years the school didn't have to worry about banning interracial dating because it just refused to accept any black students at all. So it's a school with a segregationist past and it's a school that as recently as 10 months ago on its Web site, indicated that Catholicism was a Satanic cult and said the Pope is the 'anti-Christ.'

Denise Manzari: There is a general consensus that even if John Ashcroft has not been confirmed by the Senate yet, he will eventually be approved as attorney general. Given this kind of history, what do you think that says?

John Hickey: Well, I think that says the bulk of Americans have to weigh in and talk to their U.S. senators. Remember, John Ashcroft was defeated for re-election in Missouri on Nov. 7. John Ashcroft was defeated in Missouri because John Ashcroft is too extreme for Missouri. If John Ashcroft is too extreme for Missouri, he is definitely too extreme to be the attorney general of this country.

Denise Manzari: In listening to the confirmation hearings, it was clear that what he had done in the past was contradictory to what he said he would uphold when he was being questioned. He clearly has worked against women's right of choice, he worked as hard as he could to outlaw abortion and yet he claimed that he was going to uphold the laws. So there seemed to be two different John Ashcrofts, and many were asking 'would the real John Ashcroft, please stand up?' Do you think that is going to work against him?

John Hickey: I hope our U.S. senators are wise enough to recognize that the way to measure John Ashcroft isn't what he said in those four days of hearings, but his 28-year record in public life. That 28-year record is much more enlightening as to what kind of attorney general he would be than the four days of happy talk he gave when he was on the stand at the judiciary committee. I think that anybody who would believe that (senate testimony) instead of John Ashcroft's 28-year public record is foolish. I think it's just a PR-spin, it's just a public relations gambit and that we owe it to ourselves and our country to look below that and look at the real facts and the real record. And that's what we're endeavoring to do: to get out John Ashcroft's record of interviewing in racist magazines like the Southern Partisan; his record of going to segregationist universities like Bob Jones University; his discrimination against African American nominees to federal positions like Ronnie White, Henry Foster of David Satcher.

There was another issue that I was very proud to see Sen. Ted Kennedy raise in the Judiciary Committee hearing, and that was how John Ashcroft set up a discriminatory system of voter registration when he was the governor (of Missouri). Remember, the U.S. attorney general is responsible for enforcing the Voting Rights Act and making sure that all people, regardless of skin color, have fair access to the ballot in this country.

Listen to this interview in RealAudio: "> by clicking here!

Get related information on other Bush Cabinet nominations "> by clicking here!(Needs RealPlayer 7 or 8)


Denise Manzari is WPKN Radio's news director and a producer with Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly newsmagazine, Between The Lines, for the week ending Feb. 2, 2001.

© Copyright 2001 Between The Lines. All rights reserved.

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