Darrell Issa called for hearings on white supremacists after appearing at conference for hate group

The Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed FAIR a white nationalist organization.

President Donald Trump, left, greets Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
President Donald Trump, left, greets Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called on the House Judiciary Committee last week to hold hearings on white supremacists and other hate groups, but in June, Issa gave an interview at a conference put on by a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a hate group and white supremacist organization.

In a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Issa called for the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings in order to “more fully understand” what led to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia two weekends ago.

One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed in Charlottesville when a man drove a car into a group of counter-protesters who were there to protest white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members who had gathered for a rally.

In his letter, Issa called the KKK, neo-nazis, and white nationalists “repulsive hate groups” with “hateful, extremist ideologies.”

“While Congress cannot legislate respect, decency, or acceptance of others, we have an obligation to use our platform to lead our country forward on these matters,” Issa said in his letter.

But in June, Issa gave an interview at a conference put on by Federation for American Immigration Reform. In 1993, FAIR’s founder said, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

FAIR is one of three groups founded John Tanton, an advocate of eugenics, which is a race science that aims to “improve” the human population by breeding for more “desirable” characteristics and the forced sterilization of those deemed “undesirable.”

The group also often pits itself against low-wage black and Latino workers, and the group’s current president, Dan Stein, said Americans would be “perfectly fine” if there were not another immigrant for 50 years.

Issa spoke with Brett Winterble, a conservative radio host in San Diego, on June 28 at a radio row set up as part of the conference. When ThinkProgress contacted Issa’s office last week, a spokesperson gave the impression that Issa was never at the conference.

“Congressman Issa never spoke at FAIR,” Calvin Moore, Issa’s communications director said in an email. “The Congressman took an interview with a San Diego talk radio show who was in town, but never attended or spoke at the conference.”

But releases from FAIR and the event agenda make it clear that the radio row Issa participated in was officially part of FAIR’s Hold Their Feet To The Fire conference, and a tweet from Issa himself shows the congressman in person with Winterble for the interview.

“Always happy to have him on the show when we get him on the phone, but it’s even better in person. Congressman Darrell Issa, California 49 joins us here,” Winterble says in a recording of the interview obtained by ThinkProgress. “We’re here at Hold Their Feet To The Fire, I know it’s a cause that’s near and dear to your heart.”

In the interview, Issa talks about revisiting investigations into Hillary Clinton, as well as an upcoming parade in his district and immigration laws in the Trump era.

“I think the voters need to understand, the most important change occurred on January 20th, because beginning January 20th when Secretary Kelly, former General John Kelly, when he took over, what he did is he started enforcing the law,” Issa said of now chief of staff Kelly, who was heading the Department of Homeland Security at the time. “The enforcement that’s going on, what this administration is doing, is grabbing and deporting criminal aliens in order to make our streets safer.”

Winterble, in the interview, says there is “clearly a deep state that exists” after eight years of Obama that has resulted in administrative bureaucratic resistance to enforcing immigration laws, to which Issa says there was an “eight year hiatus of just common sense enforcement” during the Obama years.

Despite first implying that Issa was never at the conference, when ThinkProgress presented the recording and the photographs to Issa’s office, a spokesperson said the story was “absurd smear,” and that Issa only attended the FAIR conference because Winterble invited him.

“This type of partisan smear isn’t only untrue, it just adds more poison to the political environment. The interview request came directly from AM 760’s Brett Winterble, a well-known talk radio personality in San Diego and Congressman Issa appeared at the location provided by the show to do the interview,” a spokesperson for Issa said. “Only the most shrill players of the radical fringe would think an absurd smear like that is going to stop Darrell Issa from leading the investigation into hateful groups and the threat they pose to America.”

Asked to specify what part of the story was untrue, the spokesman said it was “egregiously misleading.”