Media Advisory: Ashcroft Quizzed About Southern Partisan Endorsement
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and news
ASHCROFT QUIZZED ABOUT
SOUTHERN PARTISAN ENDORSEMENT
Attorney general nominee
refuses to condemn white supremacist magazine
January 19, 2001
John Ashcroft, George
W. Bush's nominee for attorney general, was questioned during his Senate
confirmation hearing about his on-the-record endorsement of the white supremacist
publication Southern Partisan.
Sen. Joe Biden (D.-Del.)
asked Ashcroft to respond to a series of quotes from the magazine, each
of which had appeared in FAIR's January 12 media advisory on Ashcroft and
Southern Partisan (http://www.fair.org/press-releases/southern-partisan.html).
The statements included claims that David Duke represented the "American
ideal"; that slave-owners were concerned about the "peace and happiness"
of slave families; that ethnic groups from outside of Northern Europe "have
no temperament for democracy"; and that only "Italians, Jews and Puerto
Ricans" live in New York, not "Americans."
In response to this questioning,
Ashcroft responded: "On the magazine, frankly, I can't say that I knew
very much at all about the magazine. I've given magazine interviews to
lots of people. Mother Jones has interviewed me. I don't know if I've ever
read the magazine or seen it. It doesn't mean I endorse the views of magazines.
It's a telephone interview. And I regret that speaking to them is being
used to imply that I agree with their views."
Of course, it is not his
speaking with Southern Partisan that implies that he agrees with its ideas,
but his telling the magazine: "Your magazine also helps set the record
straight. You've got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots
like [Gen. Robert E.] Lee, [Gen. Stonewall] Jackson and [Confederate president
Jefferson] Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've
all got to stand up and speak in this respect, or else we'll be taught
that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes
and their honor to some perverted agenda." Presumably, he did not make
a similar statement to Mother Jones.
Given several chances
to explicitly distance himself from Southern Partisan, Ashcroft declined,
saying carefully, "I condemn those things which are condemnable." When
asked directly whether he thought the magazine was racist, he said, "I
should probably do more due diligence on it. I know they've been accused
of being racist.... I would rather be falsely accused of being a racist
than to falsely accuse someone of being a racist."
Biden suggested that Ashcroft
must have been briefed on the content of the magazine for the confirmation
hearings, given that his association with it was an obvious topic to come
up. Ashcroft responded, "I don't want to be disrespectful, but for you
to suggest that I was told that all these things that you've alleged are
true, I wasn't told that. And, frankly, I have been told that some of them
aren't true.... And I don't know the source of your things."
That a nominee for U.S.
attorney general would endorse a magazine that he knew celebrated the Confederacy
is troubling in itself. That he would make no effort to check whether he
had in fact promoted a racist magazine, even after his endorsement became
a national issue--or would lie under oath about not having done so--is
* * *
Columnist Bob Herbert
of the New York Times discussed Ashcroft's dodging of the Southern Partisan
issue in a column that cited FAIR. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/18/opinion/18HERB.html
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