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Murdered Racist Leader May Have Propositioned Killer

White supremacist Richard Barrett enthusiastically denigrated gays and blacks.

In 1994, he led an anti-gay rally in Boston after a St. Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled in response to a court order that forbade the exclusion of homosexual marchers. Six years earlier, he signed “The Forsyth County Covenant,” which asserted that “all efforts to make us a bilingual, bisexual or biracial society must be defeated.”

But Barrett, who died after allegedly propositioning a black man, may also have been gay. Rankin (Miss.) County Undersheriff Bryan Bailey testified in court today that Vincent McGee, who is accused of murdering Barrett last month, told investigators that the 67-year-old lawyer made sexual advances toward him, according to The Associated Press. Bailey said at McGee’s arraignment that McGee gave multiple statements about why he went to Barrett’s house in Pearl, Miss. The 22-year-old neighbor said both that he’d gone to Barrett’s home to use the computer so he could access his Facebook account and that he’d gone there to complain that Barrett owed him money for yard work he’d done. In one statement, McGee claimed he beat and stabbed Barrett after “Barrett dropped his pants and asked him to perform a sexual act,” the AP reported.

McGee could face the death penalty if convicted of Barrett’s murder. Prosecutors announced at the arraignment that the charges against him were upgraded to capital murder — murder while committing another crime — because McGee allegedly stole a wallet and gun from Barrett’s home. Firefighters found Barrett’s body in his home on April 22 after neighbors reported a fire there. McGee, who told the AP he didn’t know about Barrett’s racist activism, also faces arson charges in connection with the killing. Three people have been charged as accessories after the fact.

Some who study the white supremacist world said that Barrett’s alleged homosexuality, while ironic, is not that unusual.

“As remarkable as it may seem, the fact is that the radical right is thick with characters who exhibit the most extreme hypocrisy,” said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which publishes this blog. “It’s quite common to find savage gay-bashers like Richard Barrett who are secretly homosexual, Klan leaders who hide their black girlfriends, white supremacists who turn out to be biracial, and neo-Nazi ideologues who were raised as Jews. A good many of those who are most violent in their attacks are actually hiding what they see as a terrible and embarrassing secret.”

They include Leo Felton, an avowed “Aryan” revolutionary who in 2001 was convicted of conspiracy in a plot to blow up black and Jewish landmarks; two months later, it was revealed that one of Felton’s parents was black. William Potter Gale, who founded the anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus in the 1970s, was secretly descended from a long line of devout Jews. And in 1965, neo-Nazi Daniel Burros killed himself after The New York Times revealed that he had been a Jewish yeshiva student.

Barrett was long rumored to be gay in white supremacist circles. Several days after his death, the proprietor of the leading white supremacist web forum, Stormfront, called him “an obvious old queen.” “Ask anyone who ever met him,” Don Black wrote in a Stormfront post. “Or just visit his website, with all the shirtless skinhead pics he’d pulled from a gay skinhead site.”

Barrett was known for reaching out to young men and in recent years ran an online forum for skinheads. In December 1988, he hosted a weekend of paramilitary training for skinheads in Learned, Miss., according to the Anti-Defamation League. The few teenagers who attended tried to hit a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. during target practice, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported. He also hosted “The Spirit of America Day,” which for 40 years honored male high school athletes. The event was recognized repeatedly by Mississippi lawmakers, most recently in February.

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