Willis Carto has been a major figure on the American radical right since the 1950s, when he set up his anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby with offices not far from the White House. Although at one time he had access to leading politicians, Carto eventually became infamous for his pro-Nazi and rabidly anti-Jewish views and lost those connections. In 1978, he founded the first major American Holocaust-denial outfit, the Institute for Historical Review. Throughout his career, Carto has been known for his anti-Semitism, anti-black racism and the wild alternative health claims regularly made in his various publications.
In His Own Words
"Without a means of confronting the onrushing third world, white civilization is doomed. It can do nothing else but deteriorate to a third world level with all that implies: the final triumph of liberalism; political correctness; a garbage culture; poverty; the extermination of the middle class and then Marxism. It means Jewish political and cultural domination, including a political tyranny comparable to Stalinism."
— "Is Christianity Relevant?", The Barnes Review website
"The Israelis literally control our press all except a few of us, the American Free Press and The Barnes Review and a few other patriotic, independent publications around the country. They control our Congress… . [A]ny one of them [members of Congress] is liable to rise up on the floor at anytime and deliver a speech praising Jews and Zionists and Blacks and Indians and heaven only knows, but can you imagine any one of them standing up and praising White Christians?"
— Interview by Michael Collins Piper, April 20, 2007
In 1955, Carto founded the Liberty Lobby, which billed itself as a conservative, anti-Communist group but became known for its advocacy of both white supremacy and anti-Semitism. Carto personally held strong anti-Semitic views and claimed to be a devotee of the theories of Francis Parker Yockey, who in his 600-page book Imperium pitched an upbeat message to beleaguered fascists, urging them to engage in a "world-historical struggle" and arguing that the fall of the Third Reich was merely a temporary setback that paved the way for a future triumph. (Carto also was one of the first American writers to deny the Holocaust in print: "‘Gas-chambers' that did not exist were photographed, and a ‘gasmobile' was invented to titillate the mechanically-minded.") Carto's Liberty Lobby promoted Yockey's writings in its newspaper, The Spotlight, and later his publishing outfit, Noontide Press, republished Imperium along with other works promoting a white supremacist worldview.
Carto was very active in the politics of the 1960s. According to Dan T. Carter's book, The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics (1996), Carto was a key supporter of governor George Wallace. In the lead-up to Wallace's 1968 presidential bid, Carto co-authored a pamphlet headlined "Stand Up For America: The Story of George C. Wallace," lauding the candidate as the only one capable of beating back "Blacky" and the Communist-dominated federal government. Carto's Liberty Lobby mailed 175,000 copies to its subscribers and printed an additional 150,000 copies that were provided to the Wallace campaign for distribution.
After Wallace's bid failed, Carto decided to build a more explicitly neo-Nazi organization. He took control of Youth for Wallace and renamed it the National Youth Alliance. The ousted directors of the Wallace youth group grew concerned when they discovered that the movers and shakers behind Carto's political apparatus were part of a subterranean neo-Nazi cult known as the Francis Parker Yockey Society. "They belong to secret cells," columnist Drew Pearson reported in 1969, "where they are known only by code names. ... They sing the old Nazi songs, hoard Nazi war relics and display the swastika at their meetings. ... They seek the overthrow of democracy in the United States." Imperium was even introduced as the founding theoretical text of the National Youth Alliance, which fell apart amidst internecine strife. (It would be reconstituted as the National Alliance by William Pierce, a former acolyte of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell and, until Pierce's death in 2002, America's most important neo-Nazi organization.) For several years, one-time Klan leader David Duke also sold Imperium through his mail-order book catalog.
In 1978, Carto spun off a new organization (under a parent organization called the Legion for the Survival of Freedom) called the Institute for Historical Review (IHR). The IHR presented itself as a legitimate historical research group, devoted to "revisionism" — a term hijacked from a school of credible historians who offered new interpretations for the origins of World War I. In fact, the new organization was made up of white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers, and it would draw expertise from the like-minded from around the world. Its mission was to erase the Holocaust by any means at its disposal — including distortion, misquotation and outright falsification.
IHR's first annual conference was held in 1979. As in subsequent meetings, deniers from around the world attended and helped to introduce some key American extremists to Holocaust denial. David Duke, the neo-Nazi who was then national leader of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was so taken with the idea that he followed up the conference with an issue of his Crusader newspaper that he dubbed the "Special Holocaust Edition." In the same way, National Socialist Party of America leader Frank Collin enthusiastically embraced denial, saying, "There was no Holocaust, but they deserve one — and will get it."
In 1984, Carto helped to found the far right Populist Party, which soon became a haven for white supremacists and other racial extremists. David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, captured the party's presidential nomination in 1988, winning 0.05% of the national vote; in 1992, Bo Gritz, the former Green Beret and militia enthusiast, headed the party's ticket, grabbing 0.1%, twice the amount that Duke had received. Behind the scenes, however, infighting was splitting the party's ranks. According to a report by the Anti-Defamation League, before Duke's nomination in 1988, Carto and his followers were pushed from power, forcing him to set up a separate faction under the leadership of Don Wassall, who later broke with Carto over financial and managerial disputes (Wassall would later found his own racist organization, the American Nationalist Union, and become a chapter leader in the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens). Carto then turned on the Populist Party, using the Liberty Lobby's newspaper, The Spotlight, to attack his former organization. By 1994, political infighting had so riven the organization that it was unable to field a candidate in the 1996 election.
In 1993, Carto found himself involved in another political battle, this time for control of the Institute for Historical Review. The leadership of IHR voted to terminate the organization's association with Carto, accusing him of fraud and financial mismanagement. Among other assets, what was a stake was control over millions of dollars in bequests to the IHR's parent corporation. A series of disputes followed, including, at one point, Carto occupying the IHR's headquarters in an attempt to seize control. A number of complicated lawsuits ensued, and the court battles lasted for years. In 1996, a California Superior Court judge ruled against Carto, ordering him to pay IHR over $6 million. In response, Carto and the Liberty Lobby filed for bankruptcy.
During this process, Carto decided to launch a new publication, The Barnes Review, dedicated to historical revisionism, which would compete directly with the IHR's Journal of Historical Review. Initially funded by the Liberty Lobby and staffed by members of The Spotlight newspaper, The Barnes Review has gone on to supplant IHR's Journal as the nation's leading Holocaust-denial publication.
In 2001, after years of stalling and legal wrangling in an attempt to shield his assets from seizure, Carto was ordered by the courts to relinquish control of Liberty Lobby and The Spotlight and to vacate his long held Liberty Lobby offices in Washington, D.C. Soon after, Carto did shutter The Spotlight (its last edition was July 2, 2001). However, a month later, Carto and former staffers of The Spotlight created yet another newspaper, American Free Press. Today, the Press carries stories on Zionism, secret "New World Order" conspiracies, American Jews and Israel. Mixed in are advertisements for outfits like Pete Peter's Scriptures for America and Kingdom Identity Ministries — practitioners of Christian Identity, a theology that claims that Jews are the biological descendants of Satan.
Recently, Carto himself has apparently become an adherent of Christian Identity. In an article posted on The Barnes Review website entitled, "Is Christianity Relevant?," he claimed that the "present day Jews are not the descendants of the group celebrated in the die [sic] Old Testament but as a combination of races in no way connected to it." Instead, Identity adherents believe that the "Aryan white races — the Germanic and Keltic peoples in particular — are literally the chosen people of God," Carto writes. "Based on this reality, one must conclude that the Identity message holds out hope for survival — not only spiritual and cultural survival — but racial survival."