Racist Memphis Radio Host Celebrated at Council of Conservative Citizens Conference
In Tennessee, a Racist Radio Host Thrives
By David Holthouse
The WLRM station manager did not return three phone calls seeking comment for this story. Edwards politely refused to comment as well. "I appreciate your request for an interview as much as I do the SPLC's continued interest in our conservative radio program," he wrote in response to an E-mail from the Intelligence Report. "I must, however, respectfully decline your offer."
Proper manners were instilled in Edwards early in life both at home, he writes on his website, and when he attended Briarcrest Christian School, an expensive private school in Memphis — tuition is now $10,000 a year — where "conservative Christian values and morals are taught and practiced in every aspect of school life," according to the Briarcrest mission statement.
Paul Fromm, a well-known Canadian white supremacist, has appeared on "The Political Cesspool" this year.
When Edwards reached the ninth grade he transferred into a "Christian nationalist" home schooling program. "It was that decision that ultimately led me down the road of political activism," Edwards says on his site. "I could no longer be aware of the problems that are plaguing this Republic without trying to be part of the solution."
He began reading the works of white nationalist politician and commentator Pat Buchanan, who appeared on "Cesspool" last year. "Buchanan was one of the first commentators that I noticed who really seemed to be speaking my language," Edwards told the Mid-South Patriot, a monthly Memphis newspaper, in a February interview. "I felt as though he was articulating a message that resonated within me."
When Buchanan ran for president in 2000, Edwards worked on his campaign. "Politics was in my blood at that point and there was no turning back," he said. Edwards ran for the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2002 on a pro-life, pro-school vouchers platform. His campaign website featured endorsements from his pastor and the fathers of several children on a bowling team that Edwards coached. He lost. But during his campaign, Edwards befriended fellow Memphis-area conservative activist Austin Farley.
The two of them together launched "The Political Cesspool" in October 2004. Farley left the show in 2006 to run for the Tennessee House in District 97, the same district Edwards had targeted four years earlier. Farley also lost.
The "Cesspool" founders won a remarkable token of mainstream political acceptance in 2005, when Memphis City Councilman E.C. Jones, who has been interviewed on "Political Cesspool" several times, presented Edwards and Farley with a certificate "in appreciation of outstanding contributions to the community," and named them honorary city councilmen.
League of the South leader Michael Hill has been on "The Political Cesspool" this year.
When Jones came under fire from the Memphis media for honoring the "Cesspool," he told the The [Memphis] Commercial Appeal, "It pisses me off when people want to make a big damn deal out of nothing. … Just because they have a different political view, am I supposed to exclude those people?"
When the Mid-South Patriot asked Edwards in February about the accusations that he's a racist he replied: "The horrible defamations we must endure are little compared to the physical battles of blood and bone that so many of our ancestors had to endure so that we could be here now." He also said that David Duke, his favorite "Cesspool" guest, is unfairly maligned. "Most of his detractors come to their conclusions about him based upon what they hear parroted from a biased and controlled global media."
The Feb. 20 "Political Cesspool" broadcast featured a phone interview with David Duke, speaking from the Ukraine. Edwards made it abundantly clear during their conversation that he, like Duke, believes Jews control the media, among many other things. "We have a very small minority that has incredible power in the American media, the American government, in academia, and in the economy," Edwards told the infamous author of Jewish Supremacism. "I find it amazing that no movement has been too big or too small that these people have not had their hands in. … You look at all the destructive movements of the 20th century. We're talking about women's rights, the civil rights movement, and today the newly protected minority status for homosexuals."
Duke said in response: "Well, the way they have been able to do that, James, and everybody listening, is through organization. They have an agenda. They make a united front. When I was a university student at LSU [Louisiana State University] on campus, the very leftist, liberal anti-Vietnam war movement was absolutely led by radical Jews." Duke failed to mention another aspect of his LSU years: In 1970, while still a student, he was photographed dressed in neo-Nazi regalia, including a swastika armband, to protest the appearance of left-wing Jewish attorney William Kunstler at nearby Tulane University. That photograph, along with hundreds of others of Duke in his Ku Klux Klan robes, have haunted Duke over the decades and hampered his attempts to win mainstream political office.
Radio host James Edwards has been compared to former Klan leader David Duke, who has run for numerous political offices. But unlike Duke, who was photographed as a young man with neo-Nazi and white supremacist symbols, Edwards has avoided the most compromising situations and language.
Edwards idolizes Duke. At the CCC conference, he repeatedly quoted "Dr. Duke" in conversation. But as much as he admires Duke, Edwards has also clearly learned from his mentor's early mistakes. He does not appear at any hate group events where he knows swastikas and other white supremacist symbols will be photographed or filmed.
A frequent topic on "Political Cesspool" all of this year has been the gruesome murders of a young white couple in Knoxville who were allegedly carjacked, raped and murdered by four black men. "Hate crime laws were made for one reason and one reason only — to protect these black animals," Edwards said during his May 28 "Cesspool" broadcast. "If these two souls [the victims] had been more aware of the racial realities of our time, perhaps they would still be alive today."
Two days before that broadcast, neo-Nazi leader Alex Linder organized a protest against "black crime" in Knoxville. Edwards was nowhere to be seen. When he appeared on CNN May 29, the network rolled footage of the protest showing demonstrators wearing swastika T-shirts and displaying other white supremacist symbols. CNN host Kiran Chetry asked Edwards, "Why has this [murder] case become a rallying cry among the white supremacists?"
Edwards disingenuously dodged the question: "Well, I can't necessarily speak for people that I don't have any association with. But I will promise you this: Had the roles been reversed, and had the victims been black and the murderers white, this would have been the biggest news story in America."
The next day on his blog, Edwards posted this message to his fans: "With regards to those who showed up in Knoxville (who were labeled 'Klansmen' and 'Nazis' etc.), conservative activists often get maligned with nefarious descriptions because they dare stand up and speak out. I don't know the hearts and minds of those who attended the Knoxville rally because I wasn't there. However, with regards to their demonstration, they were doing the right thing by bringing attention to the despicable double standard this case has received. God bless them for that."
It's not exactly a stretch to "label" a man wearing a swastika T-shirt and shouting "Heil Hitler" a Nazi. Edwards knows that, but he's a master of carefully parsing his language so that he walks the razor's edge between conservative commentary and outright neo-Nazi rhetoric. This balancing act allows him to continue building his core audience of white nationalists without doing irrevocable damage to his mainstream political aspirations As this article went to press, Edwards was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at a Sept. 15 meeting of the Missouri chapter of the League of the South, a racist, neo-secessionist organization based in Alabama. He also had recently announced that he was in negotiations with a Michigan-based media company to start broadcasting "Political Cesspool" nationwide.
His stated mission is "[f]ighting to advance a nationalist agenda based upon the Christian world view" and turning back the clock in America to the pre-civil rights era, "back when America had a strong moral compass," as he put it during his May 17 show. "You had cultural and racial integrity in those days. …What's been taken away from us, we can take back."
Edwards works hard to maintain a professional appearance and demeanor. He wears suits, not Klan robes. But he's doing more than anyone else in the white nationalist movement at this point to promote the views of neo-Nazis, Klan sympathizers, Holocaust deniers, academic racists and anti-Semites. Helped along by cable news television and the occasional sympathetic elected official, he's beginning to look a lot like the next David Duke — and he'd almost certainly consider that a compliment.
Emily Brown and Janet Smith contributed to this report.