Anuzis downplays endorsement of ‘hate group’ leader

Posted on: December 6th, 2010 by Ned Barnett 3 Comments
Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan GOP leader running for chairmanship of the Republican National Committee has received an endorsement from the state’s Republican Congressional delegation despite criticism over his defense of a white nationalist extremist and use of race-baiting campaign tactics.

Anuzis chaired the Michigan Republican party from 2005-2009 — years in which Republicans lost their majority in the state House and two Congressional seats. His leadership was controversial both because of the losses the party faced during his terms and because of his endorsement of race-baiting in politics.

Anuzis, 51, owns a communications firm and ran an Internet campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act for Newt Gringrich’s group American Solutions last year. In a web announcement of his candidacy for RNC chair he said he wants to harness the power of new media and raise campaign funds so the party can retake the White House.

In a 2007 radio interview he defended Kyle Bristow, the president of the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a group that was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Bristow led YAF as it organized a Koran Desecration competition, staged a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day,” and invited holocaust denier and racial separatist Nick Griffin to speak.

“This is exactly the type of young kid we want out there,” Anuzis said on a radio program several months after YAF’s activities had been widely reported. “I’ve known Kyle for years and I can tell you I have never heard him say a racist or bigoted or sexist thing, ever.”

This year Bristow, now a law student at the University of Toledo, published White Apocalypse, a book that presents a theory that Europeans first settled North America and were killed off by “Amerindians.” The so-called Solutrean Hypothesis has quickly become popular with white supremacist and other racist groups.

The SPLC reported on the book recently and noted that it is endorsed by a long list of white nationalist leaders. The book contains a sequence that imagines the hero murdering one of his critics from a fictional organization that is clearly modeled on the SPLC.

“I do not ‘fantasize’ about anyone’s death,” said Bristow. “I do, however, fantasize quite often of taking the country over and implementing a real right-wing agenda that would make [archconservative MSNBC commentator] Pat Buchanan and the late Sam Francis [the chief editor of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens] proud. What I mean by this is the most offensive thing possible, and what this is I will leave to your imagination.”

Though Anuzis’ business is internet campaigns, he has chosen not to clarify his support for Bristow, which has been reported on several blogs.

In an e-mail exchange with Michigan Messenger Anuzis refused to say whether he still supports Bristow and he called reports of his 2007 comments in support of Bristow “an old story, out of context and irrelevant.”

“I have no idea what Kyle has been up to since he was MSU chair,” he wrote, “so I have no idea or comment on his current status or activities.”

This response was not reassuring to Heidi Beirich of the SPLC.

“Anuzis was defending Kyle long after he’d done very racist things and those things had been made brutally public in the Michigan press,” she said. “He may be distancing himself from him now, but he sure didn’t care much about Bristow’s racism for a very long time.”

“If it weren’t for Anuzis’ strong backing of Bristow’s racist acts, he may well not have progressed to the full blown hatemonger he is today. Anuzis helped build Bristow’s career. And now he isn’t even willing to denounce Bristow’s genocidal novel. That’s a bit cowardly, I’d say.”

This is not the first controversy Anuzis has found himself in that involved racial politics. In 2006 the leadership of the Kent County Republican Party attributed the heavy Republican losses in West Michigan to race-baiting campaign tactics authorized by Anuzis.

That year the Republicans lost the House seat in the 75th district, one that they had held since the mid 80s, after candidate Tim Doyle and the Michigan Republican Party sent out mailers that portrayed the African-American Democratic candidate Robert Dean as a criminal.

Kent County GOP Chairman Libby Child, Co-Chair Karl Hascall, Treasurer Rusty Richter, and Secretary Carolyn Mianowski blamed the loss on that mailer and urged state Republicans not to reelect Anuzis as their leader.

A Nov. 11 2006 Grand Rapids Press article on the controversy featured excerpts from an letter issued by the west Michigan Republicans.

“We write you today to state that we cannot support his campaign for re-election and view his performance poorly,” the letter read. “The race-baiting mailers of the Michigan Republican Party cost Tim Doyle his race against Robert Dean for state representative and Dan Koorndyk his re-election for county commission. We are not happy about it.”

In addition, the letter states: “We fear that anyone who supports (Anuzis) risks associating themselves with the race-baiting tactics … .”

Anuzis defended the mailer as effective and attributed the Republican losses to other factors.

Despite concerns about far right associations and tactics, Aunzis is gaining support among state Republicans. Last month longtime political adversary John Yob threw his support behind Anuzis and last week the state’s Republican Congressional delegation endorsed him for the position.