Checkered History: Tony Perkins In Black And White

Family Research Council head Tony Perkins had some laudatory things to say about Coretta Scott King's recent death.

In his Jan. 31 "Washington Update," Perkins saluted the "brave" stands taken by Martin Luther King Jr. and noted that Mrs. King "courageously supported her husband's pioneering work for civil rights in America."

Perkins went on to write, "Although we came to differ with her on the critical issue of marriage, we nonetheless pay tribute to her great achievements."

Not surprisingly, Perkins didn't mention his own troubled history on the issue of race relations. The Nation magazine reported in April that in 1996, Perkins, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins, paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and notorious white supremacist David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list.

Perkins tried to keep the deal hush-hush. But as Max Blumenthal of The Nation reported, "After Jenkins was defeated by his Democratic opponent, Mary Landrieu, he contested the election. But during the contest period, Perkins's surreptitious payment to Duke was exposed through an investigation conducted by the FEC, which fined the Jenkins campaign."

Continued Blumenthal, "Six years later, in 2002, Perkins embarked on a campaign to avenge his mentor's defeat by running for the US Senate himself. But Perkins was dogged with questions about his involvement with David Duke. Perkins issued a flat denial that he had ever had anything to do with Duke, and he denounced him for good measure. Unfortunately, Perkins's signature was on the document authorizing the purchase of Duke's list."

Unfortunately for Perkins, that wasn't the end of his involvement with racist movements. In 2001, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist organization that grew out of the White Citizens Council.

The White Citizens Council was formed in the 1950s to protest public school desegregation as mandated by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. The organization was strong in the Deep South, where it was often entwined with the civic and business communities. In some Southern communities, the Council established "whites-only" private schools, which opponents derisively referred to as "segregation academies."

The Council of Conservative Citizens, while less powerful, continues raising the same racist themes today. According to a report by the Anti-Defamation League, "Both on its national and chapter Web sites and in its primary publication, The Citizens Informer, CCC's belief in white superiority and its derision of nonwhites, particularly African Americans, are delineated without apology."

Perkins is fond of citing Scripture as he and the FRC labor to impose their narrow version of "biblical law" on America. Perhaps he should read Matthew 7:16, where Jesus told his disciples, "Ye shall know them by their fruits."

Perkins' checkered past of consorting with racists has yielded rotten fruit, the stench of which we can still smell. A few nice words about the late Mrs. King make for a poor perfume.