NY Times' Stolberg, MSNBC's Matthews cited Tony Perkins, GOP conservatives as espousing “ethics” and “values”

New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg repeated a common media practice of suggesting that the GOP's “social conservative wing” cares more about “ethics and family values” than others, and quoted Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, in support. Similarly, MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked Perkins about “conservative people like yourself, who are not politicians, but are men of the church, who believe in values, rather than election results.” Neither noted Perkins' reported ties to both the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

In an August 29 "Political Memo" on the political implications of Sen. Larry Craig's (R-ID) August 8 guilty plea on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges following his June 11 arrest during an investigation of “lewd conduct” in a Minneapolis airport restroom, New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote, “Some Republicans are indeed screaming, particularly the party's social conservative wing, which places a high priority on ethics and family values.” Stolberg then quoted Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, saying: “There is an expectation that leaders who espouse family values will live by those values.” Similarly, on the August 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked Perkins whether “conservative people like yourself, who are not politicians, but are men of the church, who believe in values, rather than election results, will break with” politicians over Craig's actions. As Media Matters for America has documented, news outlets frequently suggest that “family values” are those espoused by conservatives. Further, in suggesting that Perkins represents conservative “ethics” and “family values,” both Stolberg and Matthews ignored his reported ties to both the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

The Boston Herald reported in an October 16, 2006, article, “In 2001, [Perkins] gave a speech at a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] considers a hate group.” Indeed, a Fall 2004 article in the SPLC's Intelligence Report asserted that Perkins “spoke to the Louisiana Council of Conservative Citizens on May 19, 2001,” during his tenure as a Louisiana state legislator. The SPLC characterizes the CCC as a "white nationalist" organization, and has reported that the group is “the reincarnation of the racist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s.” The CCC declares in its statement of principles:

We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called “affirmative action” and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.

In a July 30, 2005, article, The Vancouver Sun reported that Perkins acknowledged his speech before the CCC in an interview. The Sun also reported that Perkins claimed he could not recall what he said to the group and that he said he had been unfamiliar with the CCC's history at the time. From the Sun article:

The magazine [The Nation] also reported that Perkins, while a Louisiana state congressman, spoke in 2001 to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC).

Perkins said he was invited by a constituent to speak to the group, and said he wasn't aware of its history.

“Never spoke to them again. That was over a decade ago,” Perkins told The Sun, suggesting the speech happened in 1996, not 2001.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, which keeps track of politicians close to the CCC, forwarded The Sun a March-April 2001 copy of Citizens Informer, the newsletter put out by the CCC, which included the following notice:

“The Louisiana CofCC met at the Mandarin Seafood in Baton Rouge May 19 to hear State Representative Tony Perkins discuss the current legislative session. At that meeting a recruitment project was developed.”

When informed of the item by The Sun, FRC spokesman J.P. Duffy does not dispute the assertion that the event happened in 2001, not 1996, but added that Perkins “cannot remember speaking at the event, as he speaks to hundreds of groups each year.” Duffy added that Perkins opposes racial discrimination and offered the names and phone numbers of two black pastors who support him.

While Perkins asserted during the interview with the Sun that he was unaware of the CCC's segregationist ideology, the group's views were widely reported in 1998 and 1999, after it was revealed that both then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and then-Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) had spoken at council meetings. Indeed, a Media Matters search of the Nexis database found that 38 articles including the phrase “Council of Conservative Citizens” were published in either the Baton Rouge Advocate or the New Orleans Times-Picayune during 1998 and 1999. For example, a July 25, 1999, Advocate article noted that “the CCC has been labeled as a racist group,” while an October 1, 1999, Times-Picayune report called the CCC “a group critics have labeled as racist.” Additionally, a January 20, 1999, Associated Press article reported that then-GOP chairman Jim Nicholson “wants his fellow party members to quit the Council of Conservative Citizens because 'it appears that this group does hold racist views.' ”

Furthermore, while managing Republican state representative Louis E. “Woody” Jenkins' 1996 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Perkins paid $82,500 to use former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke's phone bank for Jenkins' run-off election with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Jenkins was later fined $3,000 for “knowingly and willfully fil[ing] false disclosure reports showing Courtney Communications as the vendor.” According to a July 24, 2002, Times-Picayune article, Perkins “signed the $82,500 contract for the Duke phone bank,” maintained by a company called Impact Mail Ltd., in the fall of 1996, and “said Tuesday that he didn't find out 'the complete Duke connection' until after the 1996 Senate campaign.” The article went on to report:

In 1999, Perkins said he originally didn't know the Impact Mail contract was for the use of Duke's phone bank. When he found out, Perkins said, he and Jenkins decided to route the payments through Courtney Communications, the campaign's media firm, because “politically, we didn't want to be connected with Duke.”

The elections commission ruled that the transaction violated federal elections law because it was never disclosed on Jenkins' campaign finance reports. Instead, three payments of $27,500 each were listed to Courtney Communications from Oct. 7 through Nov. 2, 1996, according to commission documents.

The Jenkins campaign “knowingly and willfully filed false disclosure reports showing Courtney Communications as the vendor,” the elections commission wrote in a settlement that Jenkins signed this year.

A spokeswoman said the commission voted in executive session in February to fine the Jenkins campaign $82,500, the value of the transaction. But Jenkins said he couldn't afford to pay that, so the fine was dropped to $3,000, she said.

While Perkins purports to "promot[e] pro-family public policy," a December 14, 2005, Washington Post article quoted him as saying: “There is a [biblical] mandate to take care of the poor. ... But it does not say government should do it. That's a shifting of responsibility.” The article also reported that Perkins “said the government's role should be to encourage charitable giving, perhaps through tax cuts.”

Moroever, contrary to Matthews' description of Perkins as a “m[an] of the church” unconcerned with “election results,” in addition to managing Jenkins' 1996 U.S. Senate campaign, Perkins spent eight years as a Republican state legislator in Louisiana and himself ran as a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002.

From the August 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Tony Perkins, let me ask you to respond to that. Do you think that they're -- that the conservative people like yourself, who are not politicians, but are men of the church, who believe in values rather than election results, will break with the pols on this one?

PERKINS: Oh, I think increasingly there is a divide that is growing.

And I would take issue with Mark that the -- that we could not have any influence over those issues unless we reflected the American public on this issue. And they do not like duplicity. They like moral values. They like marriage. They like family. They want those issues upheld.

And if they did not, we would have no influence over public policy.