February 16, 1996 in Nation/World

Buchanan Aide Tied To Racists Campaign Co-Chairman Takes Leave, Admits Attending Extremist Gatherings

From Wire Reports

Larry Pratt, a cochairman of Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign, stepped aside Thursday after a report linked him to gatherings of white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups.

Buchanan granted Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, a leave of absence.

Pratt, in a news conference in Washington, conceded he spoke at 1992 gathering in Estes Park, Colo., which a civil rights research group contends was “a seminal meeting” organized and attended by white supremacy groups, including Aryan Nation and Christian Identity, as well as anti-government militia leaders.

The meeting was called by Pete Peters, leader of Christian Identity, which critics say supports violence to promote white supremacy. Other speakers included former Ku Klux Klan leader and Aryan Nations official Louis Beam and Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler, said Mike Reynolds, an analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks militias.

“What this meeting did was essentially lay down the foundation for this Christian patriot movement that includes the militias,” Reynolds said.

Pratt, however, denied any direct link to such groups or their views.

“I have no association with militias,” Pratt said. “I am not a member of militias.

“I find racism to be abhorrent,” Pratt said. “That’s why I’m particularly offended at this. … I loathe the Aryan Nation and other racist groups with every fiber of my being.”

The purpose of the 1992 meeting in the Rockies, Pratt said, was to review government action that resulted in federal agents fatally shooting the wife and son of white separatist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992.

The allegations Thursday came in a report by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity detailing the backgrounds of presidential campaign advisers.

Charles Lewis, director of the center, said that at the 1992 meeting, “Pratt elaborated on the concept of militias, which he modeled after the Guatemalan civil defense patrols, the infamous death squads that fight against suspected Guatemalan guerrillas.”

The center also charged that Pratt spoke from the same platform at the Dallas Preparedness Expo 1995 with self-proclaimed militia leader Mark Koernke and “right-wing guru” Bo Gritz.

None of the reports on Pratt’s activities accuses him of personally espousing white supremacist viewpoints.

Pratt said that any appearances before controversial groups were to promote what he sees as the Second Amendment right of gun ownership.

The 53-year old Pratt’s Gun Owners of America represents a faction of the pro-gun community that believes the National Rifle Association is not hard-edged enough in defending the constitutional right to bear arms.

He promotes the idea of citizen militias as a way to fight crime, and in 1990 published the book “Armed People Victorious.”

Pratt joined the Buchanan campaign last year as one of four co-chairmen.

In a “Playboy” article last year, Pratt was quoted as saying the right to bear arms “is something that comes first and foremost from the Scripture. What I see in Scripture is not that we have a right to keep and bear arms, but that we have a responsibility to do so.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email