Despite John Tanton’s long, documented history of racism, Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), called the founder of his organization a “Renaissance man” of wide-ranging “intellect” in a Washington Post article published today.
It’s hard, of course, for Stein to distance himself from Tanton. After all, Tanton started the organization in 1979 and is still a member of the group’s board of directors. But since the full extent of Tanton’s racist views have been exposed in recent years, Stein hasn’t talked about the founder’s ideas much. But now he is.
Stein told the Post that attacks on Tanton “are out of context and ‘simply do not reflect the true character of the man.” But it’s hard to understand how.
Over the decades, Tanton has repeatedly described contemporary immigrants as inferior. He has questioned the “educability” of Latinos and written that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” In a letter to Roy Beck, head of NumbersUSA, Tanton wondered “whether the minorities who are going to inherit California … can run an advanced society?”
It doesn’t stop there. Tanton has corresponded with Holocaust deniers, former Klan lawyers and the leading white nationalist thinkers of the era. He introduced key FAIR leaders to the president of the Pioneer Fund, a white supremacist group set up to encourage “race betterment,” at a 1997 meeting at a private club. He wrote a major funder to encourage her to read the work of a radical anti-Semitic professor — to “give you a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life” — and suggested that the entire FAIR board discuss the professor’s theories on the Jews. He idolized a principal architect of the Immigration Act of 1924 (instituting a national origin quota system that dramatically favored whites over people of color and barred Asian immigration), a rabid anti-Semite whose pro-Nazi American Coalition of Patriotic Societies was indicted for sedition in 1942.
Based on an investigation of Tanton’s views and those of his organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) began listing FAIR as a hate group in 2007. Stein’s defense of Tanton shows one more reason they deserve the label.