executive director of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, FAIR.
AP journalist and New Hampshire resident.
A look at Buchanan’s history of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, chauvinism, and the mainstream media’s coverage of Buchanan.
Segment Subjects (keywords for the segment): Pat Buchanan, Presidential Candidate, Presidential Primary, Bigot, racism, homophobia, white supremacist, Aryan, hate speech, Buchanan history, media bias, media pundits, gay lesbian, fascist, fascism
AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. The media calls him "commentator Pat Buchanan." Many feel he should be identified by his racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic views. Last week, New Hampshire resident Norm Abelson held a news conference in New Hampshire denouncing his views. Norm Abelson is a longtime New Hampshire resident, a former AP journalist, who once worked with Sargent Shriver in the war on poverty and currently is active in homeless shelters and on programs building interfaith relationships. We’re also joined by Jeff Cohen, who is executive director of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. And he’s going to be talking about why the media doesn’t focus on the comments of Buchanan over the last years. But let’s begin with Norm Abelson.
Norm Abelson, welcome to Democracy Now!
NORM ABELSON: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: And tell us about this news conference you held.
NORM ABELSON: Well, this is the second time we’ve done it. We did the same thing four years ago [inaudible], and essentially we gathered a group of people, mostly members of the clergy and people active in various religious activities, for what we hoped would be an educational press conference. It didn’t exactly turn out that way.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened?
NORM ABELSON: Well, it kept trying to move in the direction of people asking me did I think that Buchanan was like Adolf Hitler. I tried to say that what we’re really trying to do is put Buchanan’s statements on the record, things that he himself had said and things that friends of his and supporters of his have said about his various views on Jews, blacks, gays, immigration, so forth.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don’t you share some of those views, since in this campaign these views, while they got some attention in 1992, seemed to be almost entirely sanitized by the press?
NORM ABELSON: Well, that’s unfortunately true. Let me just quickly give you a few examples. With regard to black people, Pat Buchanan wrote that it—the deaths of a dozen white Europeans would be more shocking than a massacre of black people in Burundi. He also said he would prefer the immigration of a million white Englishmen to a million black Zulus, because whites are who we are in this country. It seems like Buchanan’s anti-immigration policies become more intense as the percentage of black and brown immigrants increases. About the AIDS epidemic, he said it was nature’s retribution to gays, because it was preventable. Buchanan has had nothing to say about the millions of people who die from smoking and drinking, which also are preventable. About Jews, he called Hitler an individual of great courage with extraordinary gifts. And he also said that half of the survivors’ testimonies at the major Holocaust memorial in Israel are unreliable. He claimed that survivors suffer from fantasies of martyrdom and heroics. My wife is a survivor of Auschwitz. There are no fantasies about what happened to her there. And that’s a good reason why Allan Ryan, who was head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, called Buchanan the spokesman for Nazi war criminals in America.
AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t he also have a comment to make about Klaus Barbie, the well-known Nazi war criminal?
NORM ABELSON: Yes, he did. When the United States apologized to France for sheltering all those years this miserable Nazi henchman, Buchanan said, quote, "To what end all this wallowing in the atrocities of a dead Nazi regime?"
AMY GOODMAN: Norm Abelson, you’re a longtime resident of New Hampshire. You’ve certainly been following this campaign. Are we seeing some of these quotes in the media at least in New Hampshire?
NORM ABELSON: None. Unfortunately, what happened at the press conference was I kept getting questions about Mr. Larry Pratt, who is one of the co-chairmen of Buchanan’s campaign and arguably may be a white supremacist. I think the media has missed the whole point. I don’t—you know, I don’t think it’s a question of whether Mr. Pratt ever attended a white racist meeting. It’s a question of what drew him to Patrick Buchanan’s campaign. The media sort of refuses to focus in on that, spending endless time on Mr. Pratt, who isn’t running for a damn thing, and spending not a minute on what draws people like him to Buchanan and his campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: I thought it was interesting when I saw Larry Pratt commenting after he was kicked out, at least for the time being, under pressure of Pat Buchanan’s campaign. He said that, yes, he had been to meetings where there were white Aryans, but he also had to work with feminists, also people he doesn’t like. Jeff Cohen is another guest on Democracy Now! today. He’s executive director of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Jeff, why isn’t the media focusing on this kind of hate speech that we’ve been hearing for so long from Pat Buchanan?
JEFF COHEN: Well, I would say part of the problem is that the pundit elite on television and in the media are so close to Patrick Buchanan—he’s a friend of theirs—that they can’t perceive him in the way he’s perceived by so many groups in our country. If—a lot of Jews, a lot of gays and lesbians, a lot of women, a lot of blacks, a lot of Latinos, they see him as a bigot, as a racist. They look at all these quotes. That’s all—it’s been in the Jewish press. It’s been in the black press. It’s been in the feminist press, the gay press. And these communities know and fear Patrick Buchanan. On the other hand, the people that work with him every day remember Patrick Buchanan as a television star. That’s his vehicle for becoming a presidential candidate and a leading presidential candidate. He was on CNN’s Crossfire off and on for 15 years. He was on The McLaughlin Group off and on for about 13 years. He was on Capital Gang on CNN. He’s been on all of these shows, week after week, for many, many years. And the pundits who work with him just do not perceive him in the way that these various communities do. Here’s Fred Barnes, who is a fellow McLaughlin Group resident with Buchanan: "Underneath—underneath it is a really nice guy, actually, a sweet person." That’s Fred Barnes on Buchanan. Here’s Michael Kinsley: "He’s a much nicer fellow than I expected." Here’s Al Hunt: "a very civil, even a very, very kind, man," talking about Patrick Buchanan. And, you know, maybe he’s a sweet guy, you know, when you get to talk to him for a half-hour and then go away from a show, but that’s not how Buchanan is perceived by all of these groups who Buchanan has been attacking in column after column for the last some 15 years or so.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s right. They all share one characteristic—two characteristics: They’re white, and they’re men—not exactly—
JEFF COHEN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —two of the qualities that he’s been attacking.
JEFF COHEN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I’m sitting here looking at the ADL Special Research Report from 1992—it’s the Anti-Defamation League—called "From Columnist to Candidate: Pat Buchanan’s Religious War." And each page is more astounding than the one before it. I’m looking at Pat Buchanan’s views on South Africa, and it says that he "has traditionally admired and defended Pretoria’s white regime, which he has often referred to as the 'Boer Republic' (after the Dutch natives who colonized the region). [And in] 1990, he derided those who believed 'White rule of a Black majority is inherently wrong.'" He said, "But where did we get that idea? The Founding Fathers did not believe this. They did not give Indians, who were still living a tribal existence, the right to vote us out of North America." And he goes on from there.
Also, it points out that in 1965, Buchanan joined Richard Nixon’s campaign and that documents obtained from the Nixon archived by Boston Globe and U.S. News & World Report reveal Buchanan to have been an opponent of government-sponsored integration and unsympathetic to black people generally, and then talks about his anti-integration views. John Ehrlichman, White House aide, well known to Nixon, said, "No good politics in [Pat Buchanan]’s extreme view: segregation forever."
JEFF COHEN: Right. You know, one of the internal memos that was released that Buchanan had written to Nixon when he was in the Nixon White House, there was a reference to a magazine article in The Atlantic about the genetic basis of intelligence. And this is what Buchanan called it: "a seminal piece of major significance for U.S. society." Then Buchanan wrote to Nixon, it shows that, quote, "integration of blacks and whites—but, even more so, poor and well-to-do, is less likely to result in accommodation than it is in perpetual friction—as the incapable are placed consciously by government side by side with the capable," unquote.
I mean, frankly, one can go through Buchanan’s career and find serious patterns, not just on bigotry against racial groups, but almost a questioning of democracy. And, you know, in his autobiography, Right from the Beginning is the name of it, Right from the Beginning, Buchanan writes about—he waxes nostalgic about the heroes that his dad has, and basically implies that they’re his heroes. And his dad’s heroes were General Francisco Franco of Spain and Senator Joseph McCarthy. And when you look at Buchanan’s writings later, long after his father was not the dominant person in his life, you see that these same antidemocratic views are easy to find in Buchanan’s writings, and one should call them authoritarian views. For example, he once wrote a column about Franco and Chile’s General Pinochet, both military dictators who terminated democracy in their countries. And in a column by Buchanan in 1989, they became, quote, "soldier-patriots." And, you know, what’s curious to me about all of these quotes of Buchanan where he’s sort of putting down democracy—he’s got quotes where he talks about how people are overly obsessed with democracy, and he attacked the, quote, "one man, one vote Earl Warren system" in one article.
NORM ABELSON: OK, can I—
JEFF COHEN: Here’s another one. "Like all idolatries, democratism substitutes a false god for the real, a love of process for a love of country," the "democratist temptation, the worship of democracy as a form of governance." You know, and he goes on in attacking that.
NORM ABELSON: Can I—can I get a word in here?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Norm Abelson?
NORM ABELSON: I think—I think we’re moving—what Jeff’s saying is right, and of course, you know, he does this on a full-time basis. I’m just a citizen. There’s no question that Patrick J. Buchanan—and I’ll say it straight—he’s a coward, he’s a liar, and he’s a bigot. Part of the problem is, those of us on our side, the liberals, a lead—one of the lead editorials in The Boston Globe today by Thomas Oliphant, an admitted left-wing liberal writer, the headline says, "The Smear Against Buchanan: Guilt by Association." And he—the whole column supports Patrick Buchanan, decries everyone speaking against him, and ends up by saying this: "For those Republicans who still despise guilt by association and have been disgusted by the bilge of the past week, there is any easy way to show it when they vote today." Here’s Thomas Oliphant in The Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times, today telling people in my state of New Hampshire to vote for Patrick J. Buchanan. This is outrageous.
JEFF COHEN: Yeah, I think you are hitting at what the issue is, that the problem with the media coverage is that it keeps asking, "Is Buchanan attracting extremists and racists?" when the real question is, "Given this record of commentary and column writing for 15 years, is Buchanan himself a racist and an extremist?"
NORM ABELSON: Well, can I just quote—can I just quote two friends of his in the media, just very briefly? William Safire, who works for The New York Times and who worked with Nixon—worked with him in the Nixon administration, calls Buchanan, quote, "a most likeable hater." And I think most telling of all were the comments of William F. Buckley, who’s Buchanan’s old friend and fellow traveler on the right. Writing in his own National Review, after a long investigation, Buckley wrote about a 35-page takeout on Buchanan’s history and writings—and I read it—and here’s Buckley’s conclusion, quote: "I find it impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charges that what he did and said amounted to anti-Semitism." These are two people who worked with him, who know him. I’ll tell you something. It may sound paranoid to you, but he was the chief trickster in the Nixon campaign. And the fact that Patrick Buchanan himself may have set up this Pratt situation, so that, on the one hand, he could say, "No, I’m not a racist," but send one of his smirking messages to the right wing, wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t he also involved in the Reagan campaign—during the Reagan presidency in setting up Reagan’s visit to Bitburg to honor the Nazi SS?
NORM ABELSON: Yeah, he was. He wrote the speech, and he’s the one that convinced Reagan to go to Bitburg.
AMY GOODMAN: Norm Abelson, we’re going to have to end this segment. We’re staying on with Jeff Cohen to talk more about the issue of labor and Pat Buchanan, but I wanted to ask you: I mean, do you really think Pat Buchanan is going to be president?
NORM ABELSON: I think Patrick Buchanan—I think people laughed too much about whether Reagan could become the nominee and whether Reagan could become president, and he did. I feel that when I look at the weak field that Buchanan is going against—and you might, in essence, have Lamar Alexander and Dole splitting votes, and then Buchanan is not splitting votes, because I think some of the right-wingers are either not players or they’re going to fall out of the race, the far-rightists—I think Buchanan could really make a play for this nomination.
AMY GOODMAN: And that is Jeff Cohen [sic], who’s executive director of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.