White Supremacist's Effort to Rebrand KKK as More Inclusive Group Prompts Skepticism

PHOTO: John Abarr speaks with members of the NAACP in Wyoming in 2013.PlayABC News
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A Montana man wants to rebrand the Ku Klux Klan as a nicer, more diverse organization, but many people are saying the idea is baloney.

John Abarr told the Great Falls Tribune he's ready to shed his white supremacist ways and has started a new KKK group called the Rocky Mountain Knights, which doesn't drop its KKK label but at the same time won't discriminate against race, religion or sexual orientation.

"The KKK is for a strong America," Abarr told the newspaper. "White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan."

Abarr claims his opinions have changed over the years, the Great Falls Tribune reported. Last year he met with the NAACP to discuss how the two organizations can co-exist peacefully, and said he does not promote racial violence, despite the KKK's history.

But some groups think Abarr's group is just a publicity stunt.

Rachel Carroll-Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, told ABC News that Abarr is a known white supremacist and said she doesn't believe he's really reformed. He once ran a failed race for Congress, has distributed racist flyers and even once suggested the northwest become a homeland for the white race, she said.

"We have actually worked with a few defecting members of white supremacist groups in the past, and it always starts with an apology," Carroll-Rivas said. "And he hasn't done that."

She adds that if Abarr were serious, he would drop the KKK label.

"He's still using the label and engaging in the ritual of using the hoods and robes and not apologizing for the hurt he's done in Montana," she said. "I don't take his message of reform seriously."

Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-hate group, agreed.

"I just think it's a ridiculous publicity stunt," she said. "The only thing [the KKK] has ever done is discriminate. It's the oldest domestic terrorist organization in the U.S. It's done nothing but make life miserable for minorities so this idea that Jews or minorities could join ... it's absurd."

And it appears that even KKK members aren't happy with Abarr's plan.

"He's trying to rebrand himself, not the Klan," United Klans of America leader Bradley Jenkins told ABC News. "This man is violating the constitution of our organization."

He also doesn't buy Abarr's claims that he doesn't want to discriminate anymore, claiming that the idea in itself is discriminatory.

"Our main question is, why is it that white, gentile Americans cannot have a paternal organization without someone trying to tear it down? Sounds like discrimination to me. I don't see diversity there. Everyone wants the Ku Klux Klan to have diversity and tolerance, yet no one wants to have tolerance for us," Jenkins said.

Rachel Pendergraft, a spokesperson for The Knights Party, said the KKK has long allowed non-whites to become official supporters of the Klan, as long as they share the same beliefs. But she said it would be foolish for Abarr to allow people in interracial relationships into a group associated with the KKK.

"And of course, including persons of any sexual orientation is out of the question as far as we're concerned," she added.

Abarr did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.