06/22/2015 01:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

After Charleston, The Time Has Come For Republicans to Denounce Hate Peddlers or Be Stained By Them


We know why he allegedly did it. Exactly why. The terrorist Dylann Roof hated and feared African Americans, and that's why he reportedly killed nine people in Charleston, South Carolina. He apparently wanted to "start a civil war" for "the sake of the white race." Let's dispense with the banalities of Nikki Haley, who offered "we'll never understand what motivates" such actions. How dare a governor of South Carolina make such an ignorant statement? And for God's sake (pun intended), Fox News and Republican elected officials need to stop -- right now -- pretending that these killings were about persecuting Christians. The time has come for some honest reckoning about why this evil, white supremacist terrorist allegedly did what he did, about who, other than Dylann Roof himself, bears responsibility, and about what those people will do going forward.

Among those who bear the most direct responsibility for Dylann Roof's fear and hatred of black Americans are the people who preached exactly those ideas. And yes, of course, anyone who gins up fear and hatred of another group deserves condemnation. But our country needs to deal most urgently with the one specific form of hate that -- by far -- has long posed the greatest threat, namely the kind exemplified by Dylann Roof.

One could fill a book with example after example of media figures trying to get whites worked up about the black boogeyman. And yes, this has gotten even worse with the election of President Obama. On June 4, 2009, Rush Limbaugh told millions of white Americans that:

The days of [minorities] not having any power are over, and they are angry. And they want to use their power as a means of retribution. That's what Obama's about, gang. He's angry; he's going to cut this country down to size. He's going to make it pay for all the multicultural mistakes that it has made -- its mistreatment of minorities. I know exactly what's going on here.

I stand by what I've previously written about this statement: Limbaugh walks right up to the line of fomenting race war. He all but calls for white people to meet at the town square with their guns and attack before they are attacked themselves.

If Limbaugh walked up to that line, Larry Pratt obliterated it. Pratt is the executive director of Gun Owners of America, a group that makes the NRA look like a bunch of compromisers (that's what Ron Paul says, anyway). Pratt also has long-standing connections to the white supremacist and right-wing militia movements. In 2013 he told a radio audience that President Obama "would definitely be capable of something as evil as" creating a black army and starting a race war against whites. In March of this year, Pratt brought up the 1649 execution -- for treason -- of England's King Charles I, and added, "might Barack Hussein Obama learn" from that example.

More recently, Pratt commented that it was "reasonable" to assume that Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder was orchestrating the violent unrest in Baltimore after Freddie Gray was killed while in police custody. As Media Matters has noted, Pratt has "repeatedly given credence to the notion that Obama will start a race war."

Although you've heard of Limbaugh, you may not have heard of Pratt. However, he's no fringe figure. He and his organization have the ear of congressional Republicans. They take his calls and do what he says, according to this New York Times article about the post-Sandy Hook debate on universal background checks.

Ted Cruz has done more than take Pratt's calls and silently do his bidding. On May 27 he appeared at a Gun Owners of America "Tele-Town Hall." He praised its members as "men and women of action," and thanked the organization for its support, which "played a critical part in helping" Cruz get elected to the U.S. Senate. Sen. Cruz has long pandered to Larry Pratt. Apparently, GOA is also planning to sponsor other, similar town hall events at which they hope elected officials and presidential candidates will address members.

The connection between Cruz and Pratt is but one of many between a leading Republican and a peddler of hate. Even if Limbaugh isn't as bad as Pratt, that's an awfully low bar to clear, and yet Republicans continue to seek the praise of El Rushbo. And I just had to include this 'rendering' of Sen. Cruz, which was praised as "awesome" at, in a post announcing his appearance at the GOA event. I believe it speaks for itself.

After the Charlie Hebdo murders, and every other terrorist attack committed by Muslim fundamentalists, many people demanded that Muslim leaders condemn these acts and renounce those Muslims who did preach hatred of non-Muslims, who did stoke the passions that led to the terrorist murders. Of course, that's exactly what mainstream Muslims have done, time and again. Now the time has come to ask exactly the same thing of American conservatives who wish to be considered mainstream. There can be no double standards.

Too many prominent Republicans have long danced with the devil. The time has come for them to choose between those who would tear our country apart, and those who seek to make our country a better, more just place. Republicans must fully and unreservedly denounce those who peddle fear and hatred of black Americans. They must refuse to appear with the hate peddlers, or cultivate or even accept their support in any way. And we the people must hold them to that promise by ensuring that anyone who breaks it is never again elected to public office. The time has come. In fact, the time is long past. But better late than never.