Connecting the right-wing dots
Daryle Lamont Jenkins is the founder of One People's Project, a group based in New Jersey that came together to organize a counter-demonstration against a Ku Klux Klan rally in 2000, and that has carried on since, documenting the activities of far-right organizations and the individuals involved in them. He spoke to about developments on the right today, including connections to the so-called Tea Party "movement."
CAN YOU talk about One People's Project and what you're attempting to do?
WE WANT to diminish the ability of the white supremacists to function--period.
We're not a large organization. I think I'm better known among the right than the left, and it's because we do score hits. We've been able to ruin political careers, get people involved with neo-Nazi groups fired from their jobs, and shut down conferences and shows that they try to put on.
One of the problems we have is a mainstream media that doesn't go after white racists as hard as they do minorities. Imagine if a member of Rev. Al Sharpton's entourage, while staggering drunk on his way home, called a white woman a racist slur and assaulted her. We'd have heard about it within hours, and then for days and days afterward.
But that's exactly what happened with Marcus Epstein, who at the time was executive director of Pat Buchanan's organization The American Cause, as well as anti-immigrant former Rep. Tom Tancredo's "Team America PAC." He helps organize right-wing forums and conferences with white nationalists from all over the world.
One People's Project got the details about Epstein's criminal record--not online, but by actually going to the Washington, D.C., courthouse. In 2007, Epstein had gotten drunk in Georgetown, and harassed a Black woman. He gave her a karate chop, called her the "N-word" and was eventually arrested by Secret Service agents.
What made us even more upset about it was that we found out about this in 2009, and it happened in 2007. We reported on this while Buchanan and his cronies were busy with the "wise Latina" comment of Sonya Sotomayor during her confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice--and here was this member of their organization was attacking black women on the street.
A couple months later, James O'Keefe, the director and actor in the video that smeared ACORN, was arrested for trying to tamper with the phone lines of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. A member of One People's Project saw his picture on TV and thought he looked familiar, so we looked back in our database, and sure enough, we found out that in 2006, he attended a forum put together by Epstein, called "Race and Conservatism," for the Robert Taft Club.
This story ended up being pretty big in the right-wing press, and it was picked up by Salon.com and in the Village Voice. This caused [right-wing Web site publisher] Andrew Breitbart to go insane. Initially he tried to deny that O'Keefe had attended the conference, but after we produced a picture of O'Keefe at the conference, Breitbart changed his tune, saying we only had a partial picture, and that either way, the conference wasn't racist.
BREITBART is in the spotlight now because of the case of Shirley Sherrod. He was the one who edited a video of her speech to an NAACP gathering to make it sound like she refused to help a white farmer--and of course, the Obama administration fell for it and fired Sherrod right away.
THE OBAMA administration should have known better. She isn't the first person this sort of thing has happened to--take Van Jones and ACORN, for example. All of the things the right used against them were contrived. Yet there hasn't been any defense.
Sherrod was the first time we saw people actually looking at the context and the video. I hope that this is going to be the beginning of Democrats being more forceful around rebuking the demands of right-wing assholes like Breitbart.
But I also hope this is the thing that takes down Breitbart and his crew. Breitbart's job is to defend the right wing from charges of racism by creating false specters of racism among the left. I've been dealing with him for about a year now, and I'm surprised by how easily it is for him to ignore blatant racism in the right-wing movement. James O'Keefe at the white supremacist conference is a great example.
And now he wants to pick a fight with Black people, and he's got one. The NAACP passes a resolution at its conference for the Tea Party movement to repudiate the racists inside of its ranks, and what do they get in response? The most racist blog piece [by Mark Williams], and Breitbart attempts to discredit them by smearing a Black woman whose father was killed by the Klan.
Breitbart has got to go away. When the Holocaust Museum shooting happened in 2009, he tried to blame it on the left because "Hitler was socialist." He's definitely connected to the Minuteman and Tea Baggers. He's Jewish, so he's going to stay away from some of it, though.
CAN YOU talk about how white supremacists try to implant themselves within more mainstream conservative politics?
THEY RUN the anti-immigrant movement.
This Russell Pearce, the state senator who drafted the racist Arizona SB 1070 law, has associations with white supremacist circles. Dan Smeriglio, an activist with many white supremacist connections from Pennsylvania, organized the first rally in support of Arizona's law in Phoenix.
Tom Tancredo is another. He tried to deny that he knew Smeriglio, and we produced a video of Smeriglio standing behind Tom Tancredo during a press conference in Newark, N.J.
The white supremacists are too entrenched in that movement to try to sell it any other way. Sprinkling some members of color through the crowds can't divert attention from the fact that the main support for these rallies for SB 1070, Secure Communities, etc., is coming from neo-Nazi groups.
ARE THESE groups connected to the political establishment or are they relatively independent?
THEY'RE CONNECTED to the establishment enough for us to complain.
Sean Hannity of Fox News basically embraces that far-right, racist crowd. One of the biggest things that sticks to him is his association with Hal Turner, a white supremacist from North Bergen, N.J., who is facing charges that he called for people to kill three federal judges. Hannity was friends with this guy.
Ann Coulter defends the Council of Conservative Citizens in her last book, and no one said anything about it. She defends it as "a conservative group" that has unfairly been branded as racist "because some of the directors of the CCC had, decades earlier, been leaders of a segregationist group." In her book, she says, "There is no evidence on its Web page that the modern incarnation of the CCC supports segregation."
But its Statement of Principles--which she makes reference to, so we know she read it--says flat out: "We...oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."
When she came out to defend her statement, no one said a thing, except for Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who wrote a comment about it. This happened the same week that Attorney General Eric Holder came out saying that we're "a nation of cowards" when it comes to race relations.
TO JUDGE from mainstream media coverage, the right wing appears to be gaining strength--even though left-wing demonstrations routinely bring out exponentially more people than the Tea Party demonstrations. What do you think the right's growth has really been like?
THE PEOPLE who are making money and the people for whom it's a job--they stick around. Otherwise, the membership is very fluid. People don't stay around very long. Three or four years later, you don't hear or see them around anywhere.
In many respects, the Tea Party doesn't represent a growth of the right. It's the same people who've been around forever.
There were these two guys at a Tea Party rally in Virginia for [gun ownership rights] that we recognized immediately. We could go back in our archives and see them as militia members in 1995, as Minutemen in 2005, and now they're Tea Baggers in 2010.
The right hasn't really grown--they've just gotten more funding and better p.r. people. That's a problem for us, because when they get it, we suffer, and it takes a while to clean up. We have to ask ourselves: What do we have to do to beat it back? We need to be assertive about our beliefs. Don't just go after what they say--challenge the people saying it.