In Greenville, South Carolina tonight, five presidential contenders will meet for the first GOP presidential primary debate. According to the official program of the pre-debate “Freedom Rally,” is sponsored by several extremist groups, including the Oath Keepers militia group and the radical anti-communist John Birch Society. You can see a picture of the program here. Here’s the John Birch Society’s booth at the the pre-debate rally:
ABC News reports that The John Birch society, famous for its vocal opposition to the Civil Rights movement, represents “the far-right fringe of American politics.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the John Birch Society as a group that “advocates or adheres to extreme antigovernment doctrines.” The group was so radical — calling President Eisenhower a communist infiltrator and claiming that the Soviets used fluoridated water to control Americans’ mind — that they were effectively exiled by conservatives until 2010. They even recently called Nelson Mandela “a communist terrorist thug.”
Here is the Oath Keepers booth at the rally:
As ThinkProgress reported on the Oath Keepers:
The Oath Keepers’ website is riddled with paranoid rhetoric about government officials “disarm[ing] the American people,” “confiscat[ing] the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies,” and “blockad[ing] American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.” In early 2008, the Oath Keepers’ founder warned that a “dominatrix-in-chief” named “Hitlery Clinton” would impose a police state on America and shoot all resisters. After primary voters chose a different candidate, the Oath Keepers simply rewrote their paranoid fantasy to include a taller, African-American lead. At a Center for American Progress Action Fund event remembering the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, former President Clinton described the Oath Keepers as a “hatriot” group that embraces the same violent rhetoric that fueled Timothy McVeigh.
Are Tim Pawlenty and the other candidates at tonight’s debate aligning themselves with the extreme views of these groups?
This post has been updated to clarify the difference between the debate itself and the pre-debate rally.
,South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) speaking at the rally in front of an Oath Keepers banner: