- February 17 - Citing compelling
evidence that top McCain campaign advisor Richard Quinn has
espoused and promoted deeply troubling, racially insensitive views
for at least two decades, People For the American Way today called
on Sen. John McCain both to publicly disavow Quinn's views and to
terminate Quinn's involvement with his presidential campaign.
In a letter delivered this morning to McCain's Senate office and
campaign headquarters, PFAW President Ralph G. Neas detailed
concerns about a variety of troubling writings both by Quinn and by
others published in the magazine Southern Partisan, where Quinn has
exercised significant editorial control as executive editor and editor-in-chief since 1981.
PFAW undertook a search of PFAW Foundation's archives and of the
Internet after several news reports raised alarming questions about
Quinn's views and those espoused by the magazine he edits. Among
the material PFAW uncovered are columns written by Quinn attacking
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, discounting the evils
of slavery, and commending those who voted for former Ku Klux Klan
leader David Duke.
Neas also sent McCain copies of two stories that the letter
describes as "material of a most offensive and divisive nature."
The stories, which portray enslaved Africans or ex-slaves as crude
stereotypes are "insulting and disrespectful of African-Americans'
struggle for equality," the letter says.
"A President must be President to all the people," Neas wrote.
"To tie your campaign for the highest office in the land to such
views would give them a legitimacy that is very troubling."
"While you are to be commended for your criticism of George W.
Bush's appearance at Bob Jones University," Neas continued, "you
would do well to be sure that your own house is in order."
Following is the full text of the letter from PFAW President
Ralph G. Neas. Materials referred to in the letter are available by
fax on request.
TO SENATOR JOHN McCAIN,
FEBRUARY 17, 2000
Dear Senator McCain:
I am writing to express deep concern over information that has
come to light over the past ten days regarding one of your top
campaign advisors, Richard M. Quinn.
The New York Times, Newsday, and The New Republic have raised
serious questions about deeply disturbing views expressed by Mr.
Quinn and others in the Southern Partisan, a magazine over which
Mr. Quinn has presided as Executive Editor or Editor-in-Chief since
1981. As you may know, People For the American Way Foundation
maintains one of the nation's most extensive archives on extremist
groups. We have used these resources and those available on the
Internet to follow up on those troubling news reports.
The material we found in the past 48 hours is, if anything, even
more appalling than that reported by the news media. Mr. Quinn
used his editorial platform at the Southern Partisan to personally
espouse views that place him far outside the political mainstream.
He has repeatedly used his column to attack heroes of the struggle
for equality including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
At the same time, he has discounted the evils of slavery by
suggesting that it was not as bad as it has been portrayed and that
slaves were better off in slavery than out of it. (Copies of all
articles referenced in this letter and other similar ones are
As recently as 1996, a Southern Partisan reviewer wrote of a
book on slavery, "The greatest contribution of this work is that it
exonerates slave owners by stating that they did not have a
practice of breaking up slave families. If anything, they
encouraged strong slave families to further the slaves' peace and
happiness in order to promote efficient work."
In 1983, in a column arguing against the recognition of Martin
Luther King Day, Mr. Quinn wrote:
-- "King Day should have been rejected because its purpose is
vitriolic and profane."
-- "The black leaders who lobbied so furiously for King Day
confirmed another unpleasant reality. By celebrating King as the
incarnation of all they admire, they have chosen to glorify the
histrionic rather than the heroic and by inference they spurned the
brightest and the best among their own race."
-- "Ignoring the real heroes in our nation's life, the blacks
have chosen a man who represents not their emancipation, not their
sacrifices and bravery in service to their country; rather, they
have chosen a man whose role in history was to lead his people into
a perpetual dependence on the welfare state, a terrible bondage of
body and soul."
In 1990, the world hailed Nelson Mandela as a hero, but Mr.
Quinn went on the attack. He wrote:
-- "After all, Mr. Mandela was put in jail 27 years ago -- not
because of his humanitarian philosophy -- but because he was a
terrorist who openly advocated (and personally committed) violence
against the government."
-- "How many people out there across the face of America are
well aware that Mandela is a bad egg, maybe even say so in the
comfort and security of their homes, but are afraid to express
their real opinions publicly?"
The year before he attacked Mandela in print, Mr. Quinn wrote an
article about former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's bid for
public office. Although he made a point of claiming that his
article should not be construed as a defense of Duke, his own words
supporting those who voted for Duke don't square with that
disclaimer. He wrote:
-- "What better way to reject politics as usual than to elect a
maverick like David Duke? What better way to tweak the nose of the
Even more jarring than Quinn's soft words for David Duke is the
harsh attitude conveyed toward another Republican: Abraham Lincoln.
The Southern Partisan's merchandising operation, the "Southern
Partisan General Store" includes a T-shirt bearing Lincoln's
likeness and the legend "Sic Semper Tyrannis," the phrase shouted
by John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln. Among the materials
attached to this letter is a December 1995 form letter on Southern
Partisan letterhead, listing Quinn as Editor-in-Chief, apologizing
that the "anti-Lincoln T-shirt" has sold out in all but odd sizes.
The letter offers, "If the enclosed shirt will not suffice, we will
be glad to refund your money or immediately ship you another
equally militant shirt from our catalog."
Other offensive and divisive materials have appeared in the
Southern Partisan throughout Mr. Quinn's tenure. Although other
writers' bylines appear on some of these materials, as Executive
Editor and then as Editor-in-Chief Mr. Quinn certainly bears
responsibility for the editorial content of the magazine. Among
the most offensive materials in this category are two stories from
1989, which I've enclosed. One, entitled "Popo," tells a story
about an enslaved African who saved his master from being lynched
by northern soldiers by dancing. A second story in a similar vein
tells about a female ex-slave, "Old Aunt Mary." Senator McCain, I
rarely use the word "racist" - but there is no other word
appropriate for stories as insulting and disrespectful of African
Americans' struggle for equality as these stories are.
I do not -- and would not -- suggest that Mr. Quinn does not
have the right to hold such views. If the First Amendment means
anything, it means that each person has a right to his own views,
no matter how offensive or extreme.
But it does our country -- and the Republican Party -- a great
disservice to lend credibility to such views by placing their
proponent in a position of such high authority. A President must
be President to all the people. To tie your campaign for the
highest office in the land to such views would give them a
legitimacy that is very troubling.
While you are to be commended for your criticism of George W.
Bush's appearance at Bob Jones University, you would do well to be
sure that your own house is in order. Therefore, I urge you to
immediately repudiate the views of race expressed by Mr. Quinn in
his own writings and in the magazine he heads and to terminate his
involvement in your campaign.
Ralph G. Neas