Gun Control Org Resurfaces New NRA Prez’s Speech to White Supremacist Group

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Reuters

A leading gun control group accused the National Rifle Association of acting to “fan the flames of extremism” by choosing former congressman Bob Barr as its new president—citing a long-acknowledged speech to a white supremacist group Barr gave while serving as a U.S. representative from Georgia.

“The fact that the NRA board of directors handpicked a president who was the keynote speaker at a convention of blatant white supremacists tells you everything you need to know about the state of the organization,” Emma Brown, executive director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told The Daily Beast of Barr’s 1998 speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) in Charleston, South Carolina.

Founded in 1985, the CCC espouses racist views prominently, including opposition to interracial marriage, which one member, writing a website column around the time of Barr’s speech, called “genocide via the bedroom chamber” that would turn the U.S. into “a slimy brown mass of glop.”

Brown added: “The NRA and their friends in the gun industry fan the flames of extremism to spread fear and boost sales. They turn a blind eye to mass violence because it helps them line their pockets. Giffords will continue working to expose the industry and hold bad actors accountable.”

Giffords was founded by the former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and seriously wounded in 2011.

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The NRA suffered a public relations blow during the scandal-plagued downfall of Wayne LaPierre, its longtime chief executive, but it remains the most powerful pro-gun group in the U.S., extending influence over politicians including Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who addressed NRA members in Dallas earlier this month.

The appointment of Barr also demonstrated the close ties between the NRA and the GOP establishment.

On his appointment, Barr, 75, said: “I have been a fighter my whole life and I commit to boldly fight for our Second Amendment rights on behalf of the millions of NRA members. We need to grow our ranks, especially in this election year, and I pledge to focus my attention on doing just that.”

Barr was a federal prosecutor before becoming a Republican congressman, representing the 7th District of Georgia between 1995 and 2003 and playing a lead role in the failed impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

In 2008 he was the Libertarian nominee for president, winning just under 524,000 votes.

Ten years before that, however, Barr endured a scandal of his own when he was forced to acknowledge and explain his speech to the CCC.

In December 1998, The Washington Post reported that Barr, a sitting congressman, was “a keynote speaker” at the CCC convention.

The Post quoted a columnist on the CCC website as writing: "Take 10 bottles of milk to represent all humans on earth. Nine of them will be chocolate and only one white. Now mix all those bottles together and you have gotten rid of that troublesome bottle of white milk. There too is the way to get rid of the world of whites. Convince them to mix their few genes with the genes of the many. Genocide via the bedroom chamber is as long lasting as genocide via war."

Barr told the paper he had not known the group to have such extremist positions when he agreed to address it, saying: "The group does harbor some very unusual views that neither I nor any member of Congress endorses.”

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He also told the Post a CCC youth group discussion he attended, at which racist ideas were discussed, “gave me serious pause [but] I was there and I [decided I] would speak to them and leave.”

A senior CCC official rejected that version of events, telling the Post Barr “knew what we were all about before he spoke to us” and adding: “We don't invite people and let them walk into the dark on us."

The Post’s reporting touched off a scandal that also engulfed Trent Lott of Mississippi, then the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, who had also addressed the CCC.

Barr’s speech was first raised in a complaint to the House Judiciary Committee chair by the well-known lawyer Alan Dershowitz, arising from his testimony against the Clinton impeachment.

Barr told reporters then: “It is no coincidence that, days before a vote on impeachment, one of President Clinton’s most ardent supporters is falsely accusing me of harboring racist views.”

Asked for comment about Barr’s appointment and whether the NRA would ever endorse the views held by the CCC, a spokesperson for the pro-gun group pointed The Daily Beast to the time passed since Barr’s speech.

“As reported by The Washington Post 26 years ago in 1998,” the spokesperson said, “Congressman Barr disavowed any association with the group. The NRA has no association with them whatsoever.”

Asked if Barr would comment now on his speech to the CCC, the NRA spokesperson did not reply.

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