One of the most visible attempts by rightists to recruit from the left involved the 1992 presidential candidacy of Bo Gritz. Gritz ran for president through a variety of local parties and groups, but his earliest candidacy this electoral round was under the banner of the fascist Populist Party. Even Readers Digest has called the Populist party a haven for neo-Nazis and ex-klansmen. The Populist Party was founded by Hitler apologist Willis Carto.
Bo Gritz is the point man in an effort to build a coalition of white supremacists, anti-Jewish bigots, neo-fascists, and paranoid gun nuts. At the same time Gritz has attracted a large audience of progressives with his anti-administration appeals.
Gritz promotes the ideas of the Christian Identity movement, although he claims he is not a follower of Identity. In a speech at Identity pastor Pete Peter's Colorado headquarters, Gritz acknowledged that Peters had helped publish and distribute his book Called to Serve, which is used to promote the Gritz presidential campaign.
Christian Identity is a religion that sees Jews as agents of Satan and considers African-Americans to be sub-human. Identity claims the United States is the real promised land and white Christians are the real children of Israel. Many proponents of Christian Identity seek to overthrow the "Zionist Occupational Government" in Washington, D.C. and establish an exclusively white Christian nation, or at least seize the states of the pacific northwest.
Gritz primarily seeks to build networks of support in reactionary and far-right circles. He made a presentation on "MIA/POW & Government Drug Dealers" at the Third Christian Heritage National Conference held in November of 1990 in Florida. Among other featured speakers were Bob Weems, Pete Peters, Col. Jack Mohr and other persons who promote Christian Identity. Also speaking were Eustace Mullins, who provided the "Total Conspiracy Update," and A.J. Barker, national chairman of the Populist Party.
The Populist Party ran former neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke for President in 1988 with Gritz as the original vice-presidential nominee. Gritz later dropped off the ticket to run for local office, and now makes excuses for his earlier affiliation with Duke.
Gritz claims he opposes racism and is trying to clean up the Populist Party. But Gritz continuously misrepresents the nature of the Populist Party and its ongoing leadership. An article in the September 1992 Soldier of Fortune magazine notes:
" Gritz also said he does not know Jerry Pope, chairman of Kentucky's Populist Party. Pope was once a prominent figure in the National States Rights Party founded by racist J.B. Stoner, who was imprisoned for the deaths of black children in the bombing of a Sunday school class in Birmingham, Alabama." Pope and Gritz are both listed as being on the Board of Advisers to the Populist Action Committee run by Liberty Lobby.
The Populist Party began promoting Gritz for President in the summer of 1991. The banner headline in the June, 1991 issue of The Populist Observer: Voice of the Populist Party was "Groundswell Building For Gritz Presidential Run." Gritz had addressed the Populist Party national convention in May 1991. The following month, The Populist Observer ran another banner headline proclaiming: "Gritz Populist Party Candidacy for President Official!"
In a memo sent to Populist Party regulars by Chair Don Wassall, and signed by 11 Populist Party Executive Committee members, Wassall wrote that "We are reaching out to new people, and we have a tremendous presidential candidate in Bo Gritz." Campaign flyers mailed from the Populist Party headquarters are headlined "Bo Gritz for President...Vote Populist Party." In the June, 1991 issue of The Populist Observer, Gritz wrote, "I call upon you as Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, right, left, conservative, liberal, et.al., to UNITE AS POPULISTS [emphasis in original] until we have our nation firmly back on her feet." Gritz told the audience at a July, 1991 meeting in Palo Alto, California that they should reach out and attempt to recruit persons from the left.
While Willis Carto was one of the key founders of the Populist Party, the Party is now under the control of Don Wassall who is feuding with Willis Carto and the Liberty Lobby over control of the movement. According to the May 1992 issue of The Monitor, "Wassall's Populist Party has been forced to take a back seat as Gritz has cobbled together his own organization, the America First! Coalition."
But as the Monitor explains, "Gritz's standard stump speech is an amalgam of themes popular among white supremacists and others on the far right: the Federal Reserve System is unconstitutional and should be abolished and a vast conspiracy of "internationalists" are taking over the world. In his book Called to Serve, Gritz writes that "Eight jewish (sic) families virtually control the FED," (the Federal Reserve System.)
Gritz was heavily promoted by the Carto forces as early as the summer of 1987 when Gritz was holding press conferences charging that key U.S. government officials were the "biggest customers" of the world's leading "drug lord," Gen. Khun Sa of Burma.31
In a January 3, 1992 letter to Willis Carto, Gritz urged the warring factions in the Populist Party to cease their bickering, and told Carto he was "seeking cooperation between you and your former allies." He also wrote "During my first meeting with Don and Phil as a Populist candidate, I expressed utmost concern over accountability of funds," thus clearly acknowledging that he considers himself the Populist Party candidate.
Gritz's call for the left/right coalition apparently first surfaced publicly at his Freedom Call '90 conference held in July, 1990 in Las Vegas. Speakers at that conference included Gritz and anti-Semite Eustace Mullins, as well as Father Bill Davis of the Christic Institute, ex-CIA official (now critic) John Stockwell, and author Barbara Honegger. This fact of attendance is not meant to imply that all these persons share the same views. It is meant to demonstrate that Gritz is attempting to draw a broad range of government critics into a coalition. Stockwell, Honegger, and Davis have all said their appearance at the conference should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Gritz's research or political views. Gritz's Center for Action still sells a set of tapes from the conference, including speeches by Gritz and Mullins, along with Father Davis, Barbara Honegger, and John Stockwell.
This set of tapes is advertised in the Prevailing Winds catalog which mixes material from mainstream, progressive, and far-right sources. Prevailing Winds promotes the Christic Institute and dozens of other left and liberal organizations and writers (including this author), as well as featuring a full page ad for Gritz's Center for Action. A West Coast affiliate of the Christic Institute sells The Guns and Drugs Reader, edited by Prevailing Winds. Prominently featured in the publication is material by fascist standard-bearer Bo Gritz. Prevailing Winds "recommends" tapes Gritz and the vicious Jew-basher Eustace Mullins as "important exposes."
John Stockwell has expressed concern over the way Prevailing Winds has lumped his research together with research he finds problematic. In the past, Stockwell has been highly critical of Honegger as a reliable source of information, and has had criticisms of some aspects of Christic research as well. Stockwell says he "met Gritz there on stage" at the 1990 conference and "came away greatly unimpressed," and he was quick to distance himself from the Populist Party.
After the controversy broke in the left press, a spokesperson at Prevailing Winds (who asked to be identified simply as Patrick) said they were now considering at least including a warning in their catalog about Bo Gritz's ties to the Populist Party and other rightist and anti-Jewish groups and individuals. Patrick said their catalog came out before Gritz accepted the Populist Party presidential nomination, but defended the inclusion of the Gritz material, saying that "middle America needs this kind of information" because "Bush is basically a dope-peddling Nazi."
Patrick said the appropriateness of carrying Gritz's material, given his ties to the anti-Jewish far right, has been discussed by the Prevailing Winds staff, and also discussed with Bo Gritz and with Father Davis of Christic.
According to the Prevailing Winds representative:
Christic's Father Bill Davis walked out of the 1990 Gritz conference when Mullins gave his speech. Yet over a year after the event, Christic still had made no public statement distancing itself from Gritz or Mullins. In the meantime, Gritz was touring the country promoting Christic's Iran-Contra research and implying a friendly working relationship between himself and key Christic figures, especially Danny Sheehan. Sheehan is featured in a privately-distributed videotape program focusing on Gritz's research which takes a critical look at the Reagan and Bush Administrations' intelligence and drug policies. That videotape, circulated by Gritz and his allies, also uncritically shows a headline from the LaRouchian newspaper New Federalist to illustrate a point.
Christic's national director, Sara Nelson, told In These Times that Christic apologizes for the appearance of Davis at the conference with Mullins, and no one is suggesting that Christic harbors any racist, anti-Jewish or fascist views. But Christic has not issued a clear and widely disseminated public statement alerting people who may have seen the Prevailing Winds catalog or the Gritz material and who now seem confused over who supports whom. This is not meant to be interpreted as a blanket criticism of the Christic Institute. Many Christic projects have been valuable. They circulated a tremendous amount of useful information about the issue of covert action and the Iran-Contra scandal. Especially notable in other areas are the work of Lewis Pitts at Christic South and the project by Andy Lang to illustrate problems with forging democracy in eastern Europe. Yet Christic's Sheehan, Davis, and Nelson have not taken seriously the problem of right-wing groups and individuals linking themselves to the Christic case and recruiting Christic supporters in a way that implies a shared agenda. While this is not just a problem with Christic, the role that Christic could, and should, be playing in providing leadership on this question would be extremely useful.
Front Man for Fascism: Bo Gritz and the Racist Populist Party, a report by the California anti-fascist group People Against Racist Terror describes how Gritz has promoted himself on the left. The report urges Christic to be more vocal:
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