The Washington Times Pushes Extremist, Neo-Confederate Ideas
By Heidi Beirich and Bob Moser
Something else about McCain is even rarer: he belongs to a hate group — the League of the South (LOS) — that shares some of American Renaissance's views on race. The League, a white-supremacist organization that opposes racial intermarriage, has defended historical segregation and even slavery, and advocates a second Southern secession from the U.S.
Washington Times readers have not been informed of McCain's hate-group membership, even when he's written on subjects near and dear to the hearts of his co-religionists. (McCain has been identified as a League member on DixieNet, the Web site that has reprinted several of his stories and essays from the Times, and he's mentioned his affiliation with the League in on-line postings.)
If McCain and his editors followed the usual rules of journalistic ethics, steering him clear of subjects related to his partisan beliefs, his hate-group membership might not be an issue. But the 43-year-old Georgia native, who left the Rome News-Tribune (circulation 17,000) for The Washington Times in 1997, has specialized in subjects that are vital to League of the South members: race, religion, guns, immigration, and controversies over Confederate flags and "heritage."
An avid poster on Internet discussion groups, McCain has aired strong personal views on these subjects. In December, New York Press media critic Michelangelo Signiorile published some of McCain's contributions to FreeRepublic.com, written under the pseudonym BurkeCalhounDabney.
McCain asserted that the civil rights movement inspired "black criminality" by encouraging people to get arrested at demonstrations. "I am disturbed … by [Jesse] Jackson's idea that 'breaking white folks' rules' was somehow inherently just," McCain wrote. "If rules were to be broken merely because they were the work of white folks, then hasn't Jackson gone a long way toward explaining the explosion of black criminality that began in the 1960s?"
Signiorile, who was alerted by a reader to McCain's postings, told the Intelligence Report he was "amazed" by what he found. In one posting, McCain suggested that Harvard University President Lawrence Summers be "persecuted and run out of town" for supporting gay rights.
In another, McCain gave his take on interracial relationships: "[T]he media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion," McCain wrote. "The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us."
Shortly after Signiorile's story appeared, and McCain's extremist views began to circulate around journalistic and political circles, every posting by BurkeCalhounDabney was deleted from FreeRepublic.com.
Taking His Stand in Dixie
McCain's beliefs often creep into his stories in ways that readers might not notice. In 1998, McCain wrote the Times' obituary for George Wallace, the Alabama governor who became the South's most famous segregationist.
Hailing Wallace as "a man who transformed American politics" and paved the way for conservative electoral triumphs, McCain quoted three scholars on Wallace. All the scholars were identified as history professors — but not as leaders in the same hate group McCain belongs to, the League of the South.
"[A]s a working journalist with 10 years' experience," McCain once wrote on the League's DixieNet Web site, "I am well aware of how reporters can subtly frame their stories to suggest which side in any controversy is in the right." McCain's stories for the Times often display this expertise, relying on sources from hate groups without acknowledging the controversial nature of their views — and immediately shooting down any opposing viewpoints, like those of the NAACP leader in McCain's story on Dixie-loving as a "hate crime."
If McCain's not-so-subtle framing of the news has raised eyebrows around the Times' newsroom, it doesn't appear to have affected the kinds of stories he's assigned to write. In 2000, when African-American writer Lerone Bennett Jr. published a controversial book accusing Abraham Lincoln of being a racist (see related story Lincoln Reconstructed), McCain wrote an approving feature about the book even though — perhaps unbeknownst to his editors — he had already expressed vehement opinions on the subject.
In an Internet discussion group, McCain had written that Lincoln was a "war criminal" who should have been tried for "treason." On DixieNet, McCain — using his own name — had even concocted a mock "Wanted" poster for Lincoln, whom he described as the "1st RULER and TYRANT of the AMERICAN EMPIRE" and a perpetrator of "Murder, False Imprisonment, and numerous HEINOUS crimes against the SOUTHern states and AMERICANS in general!"
"I cannot believe that they allow him to stay" at the Times, says Signiorile. "I don't think any paper should have anyone in a racist group covering these issues, or covering racial politics. It's completely outrageous to have someone like that covering news at all."
McCain and his editors declined several invitations to talk to the Intelligence Report about his League of the South affiliation and its impact on his reporting. But McCain has expressed typically strong views on who should be covering news — especially news about the South.
In 1996, a year before he was hired by The Washington Times, McCain co-wrote a manifesto called "Down on Dixie: the Confederate Cause and the South's Scalawag Press." Advertised for $1.50 apiece on DixieNet, the 16-page pamphlet looks nostalgically at "a time, not so many years ago, when newspapers in the South were also expected to be newspapers of the South and newspapers for the South." By contrast, McCain and his co-author, now-deceased Sons of Confederate Veterans member Gilbert Smith, accuse modern-day Southern journalists of waging "a vicious campaign of propaganda and distortion" by saying, among other things, that the Civil War was fought over slavery.
"[L]et Southern journalists continue to sneer in ignorance at those things which they imagine are represented by the Confederate battle flag," McCain concludes, in a condensed version of the pamphlet that appeared on DixieNet. "But this I shall not do. I shall not buy into the North's hypocritical claims of moral superiority. Like my ancestors before me, I'll take my stand in Dixie."
And as long as he continues to take that stand in The Washington Times, with the powerful backing of his editor in chief, one thing is for sure: Nobody will accuse the Times of succumbing to the Scalawag Press.