When it comes to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot, at least one thing has become abundantly clear: he doesn’t have a problem sharing the stage with some of the nation’s most extreme, divisive and hateful figures. That conclusion is underscored by the news that Abbott will be a featured speaker next month at a Texas Renewal Project event that includes a virtual “who’s who” of religious and political extremists.
Last year Abbott — now the Republican nominee for Texas governor — accepted an award from a Houston organization whose executive director calls his city’s mayor a “sodomite,” compares President Obama and Democratic leaders to Nazis and attacks the religious faith of clergy with whom he disagrees, calling them “chimpanzees,” “pathetic” and “pitiful.” Earlier this year Abbott campaigned with rocker Ted Nugent, who has called President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” and brags about bedding underage teen girls.
Now at the Texas Renewal Project event scheduled for April 3-4 in Austin, Abbott will be joining a list of speakers who have a history of incendiary, hateful and divisive rhetoric. Among them:
- Don Wildmon: Wildmon is founder of the Mississippi-based American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group. He and other AFA spokespeople have a history of vicious anti-gay, anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric. The group’s Bryan Fischer, for example, has likened African Americans to rabbits, suggested that Native Americans deserved to be killed and lose their lands because they refused to convert to Christianity, and has compared gay people to drug addicts and insisted that homosexuality should be illegal. He also opposes allowing Muslims to immigrate to the United States, calling Islam “an evil and wicked religion” that is “unworthy of a Christian nation.”
- David Barton: Founder of Texas-based WallBuilders, Barton calls separation of church and state a “myth” and has spoken at events sponsored by white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations. During the State Board of Education’s 2009-10 debate over social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools, the self-proclaimed “historian” (who lacks formal academic training in the field) argued that labor and civil rights hero César Chavez should not “be heralded to students as someone who modeled active participation in the democratic process.” He also supported teaching students that infamous Red-baiter Joseph McCarthy has been “exonerated,” saying the claim “is quite proper and reflects a commitment to accuracy and truth in history.” He argues that the Bible opposes minimum wage laws as well as income, capital gains and inheritance taxes.
- Laurence White: The former chairman of the Texas Restoration Project, White helped religious-right organizers recruit thousands of pastors and their spouses in an effort to politicize churches in support of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2006 re-election campaign. He blames the Holocaust on separation of church and state, calls homosexuality “the vilest perversion,” and insists “God should destroy America” if “we do not stop abortion.”
- William Federer: Like Barton, Federer portrays himself as a historian even though his college degree is in accounting. The former congressional candidate warned in 2012 that the President Obama might push Israel into a war with Iran and then use the crisis to “take control of the radio, TV and the Internet” to ensure his re-election. He has also argued that the Obama administration is part of a conspiracy to establish Sharia law around the world.
- Ken Graves: A former lumberjack who started an evangelical church in Maine, Graves teaches that when a women “agree to marry a man, you’re agreeing to submit to him.” Graves also campaigned for a Maine ballot measure in 2009 to bar same-sex marriage. “What got me is how the homosexual community being portrayed in this campaign is a gross misrepresentation of how it really is,” Graves told a reporter. “You see these commercials of two happy moms, or two happy dads and happy siblings – when in fact they are not happy families. They are depressed.”