Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) once delivered a videotaped address to the white nationalist group that may have influenced the suspected Charleston, South Carolina gunman.
A manifesto surfaced over the weekend that appeared to have been written by 21-year-old Dylann Roof, the white man who allegedly gunned down nine people last week at the historic black church Emanuel AME in downtown Charleston. The manifesto credited the Council of Conservative Citizens, a once-prominent white nationalist group that has long had ties to GOP politicians in the American South, with opening the author’s eyes to black-on-white crime.
Then-Lt. Gov. Huckabee was invited to speak at the group’s 1993 national convention by the its founder, Gordon Lee Baum, according to a 2008 Huffington Post report. Baum told The Huffington Post that Huckabee “sent an audio/video presentation saying ‘I can’t be with you but I’d like to be speaker next time'” because he was compelled to remain in Arkansas during the convention while then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker (D) travelled out of state.
The group’s 1993 newsletter, which was obtained by Edward Sebesta, who researches neo-Confederate groups, hailed Huckabee’s videotaped address as a smash hit.
“Ark. Lt. Governor Mike Huckabee, unable to leave Arkansas by law because the Governor was absent from the state, sent a terrific videotape speech, which was viewed and extremely well received by the audience,” the newsletter read.
The Council of Conservative Citizens invited Huckabee to speak again at a 1994 luncheon it held in Little Rock, Arkansas. Huckabee originally accepted the invitation but withdrew after the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization, identified another scheduled speaker, Kirk Lyons, as a white supremacist lawyer who’d associated with Holocaust denial groups.
“I will not share the stage or platform with someone who thinks the Holocaust didn’t happen,” Huckabee said at the time, as quoted by The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Huckabee also told the newspaper that he received dozens of speaking invitations and wasn’t familiar with the group, despite having delivered a videotaped address to its national convention a year earlier.
“It’s such a rare thing that we have such an organization like this, and usually there are people on the program that we know,” he said, as quoted by The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “This is one we may not have known enough about.”
The Council of Conservative Citizens has proved to be a problem for other 2016 GOP presidential candidates this week. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) all announced they would refund or donate thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Earl Holt III, the group’s current president.