Hate Groups Riled Up Over Prospect of President Obama

Fringe groups to be watched even more closely if Obama wins.

October 28, 2008, 11:38 PM

— -- The prospect of a Black president has America's bastions of hate in an uproar. Leaders, including the wizard of the Imperial Klans of America, Ron Edwards, have long warned the white race is under attack and must be defended. Federal authorities say web sites have featured ugly calls to target Senator Barack Obama.

And twice now since August, two sets of self-proclaimed neo-Nazi skinheads have been caught in what officials say were feeble but still troubling plots to assassinate Obama.

"If Obama is elected president, these people see the world as they know it to end," said Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In the most recent case, federal agents say two men, Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman, planned to go on a killing spree against more than a hundred African Americans and then, they told the Secret Service, go out in a blaze of glory, dressed in white tuxedos and top hats during the assassination attempt. Cowart is described as the leader.

"His views are strongly Neo-Nazi," said Dees, "which explains why he wants to kill black people and why he's ultimately interested in the assassination of Sen. Obama."

Cowart and Schlesselman told the Secret Service they met using the website of a new hate group, the Supreme White Alliance, a next generation of neo-Nazis and racist skin heads.

"We're being discriminated against just because we believe in our white rights," said Steven Edwards of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, who is considered the leader of the Supreme White Alliance.

Like his father, the Klan wizard before him, Edwards represents yet another generation of Americans who find comfort in hate. It is a fringe group, but one that will be even more closely watched if the country elects as President a mixed-race Black man who represents all they fear.

In an contentious interview with ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross on Nightline Tuesday, Edwards said that the assassination plot alarmed him and he sought to portray his group as a social club, with no ties to two men under arrest.

(Click here to watch the Nightline report.)

Social Club or White Power Group?

"We are a club, so we get together, socialize, more of a social type thing for people of the same views," said Edwards. "Do we hate? No we don't hate. We hate certain people and things that go on in the world."

But Edwards sings a different tune, one of extreme hate, when he is with his followers. He is a kind of rock star on the hate circuit for his song "No Mercy", performed at what are called Nordic fests, a Woodstock for the Neo-Nazi, skinhead set.

"What about the Jews? No mercy!," Edwards is seen singing in a video from a concert three years ago. "What about the spics No Mercy? What about the N*****s? No Mercy! What about the Faggots? No mercy? What about the Traitors? No mercy!"

But when asked about the song by ABC News, Edwards replied, "I didn't write that song."

"People, like us, we like to joke, that's pretty much a joke," Edwards said shortly before trying to stop the interview. Edwards stormed off at least four times during the ABC News interview after becoming upset over questions about his club's racist views.

"They have what they call a public front, to tell you that hey, we're not violent, we don't promote violence, we're just interested in getting our views across, representing white people's interest and free speech," said Dees. "But they have a private side represented by the Dan Cowart and his associate, this individual in this case, these groups would certainly never never admit."

Edwards says the man arrested in the Obama death plot, Daniel Cowart, was never a full member of the Supreme White Alliance, the SWA. But Cowart is seen pictured at a SWA party this April to honor the birthday of Adolph Hitler.

Edwards say Obama, for his race, is a smart man, and that he is opposed to any effort to kill him, but he again tried to stop the interview when asked if he would call the police if a member of his group expressed any desire to harm Obama.

While most white supremacist groups have drawn the line at mentioning violence against Obama, a recent example shows that some long-kept quite feelings of hate groups are beginning to emerge, according to equality advocates.

Hate Beginning to Emerge?

While most white power groups have drawn the line at mentioning violence against Obama, a recent example shows that some long-kept quiet feelings of hate groups are beginning to emerge, according to equality advocates.

"Most white supremacist groups are trying to figure out how they can make hay out of an Obama presidency," said Southern Poverty Law Center director Mark Potok, who is in charge of the center's Intelligence Project.

A prime example, said Potok, is Bill White, the self-described neo-Nazi and leader of the American National Socialist Workers Party who was indicted last week for allegedly soliciting injury to a member of a jury that convicted a white supremacist four years ago for soliciting the murder of a federal judge in Chicago. The case revolves around White's alleged posting of the juror's home address and phone numbers to a website that officials have since taken down.

But there is an item marked as an exhibit inside the criminal complaint which stands out: a full-color magazine cover showing an image of Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama waving to a crowd, targeted by a swastika and a rifle's crosshairs. Bold words read, "Kill This N*****?"

The complaint says the cover was posted on White's website on Sept. 9, 2008, along with a comment which sought $10,000 to print 20,000 copies of it before the upcoming election.

The Illinois office of the U.S. Attorney would not comment about the magazine cover or its relevancy to the current charge against White.

As the historic race to the White House nears to an end, Deborah Lauter, civil rights director of the Anti-Defamation League, said tension is mounting and "everyone is on high alert."

She said yesterday's arrest of the two Tennessee men is of great concern.

"What it showed us is that white extremists who have a propensity to act out during a presidential campaign in fact were prepared to do that," said Lauter, adding that the incident showed that "our fears unfortunately can be realized."

The SWA said that while one of the men was affiliated with the SWA earlier this year, he has since been ousted, and the alliance has not been in contact with either Cowart or Schlesselman.

White isn't making any statements at this time, but his attorney, Bill Cleaveland, said "he is preparing to defend himself on the charge."

White told the New York Times last month that he was planning to use an $8,000 donation from a Michigan supporter to print and distribute 20,000 copies of the magazine cover on the latest issue of The Nationalist Socialist to white working-class neighborhoods. The Times article said White "said the cover was satirical and pointed to a subheading that read, "Negro Deification and the 'Obama Assassination' Myth"."

He gained notoriety for his extreme comments and internet postings, including one in which he essentially encouraged the lynching of the Jena 6, according to the FBI. This recent criminal complaint in White's case says the web site that he maintained until the FBI recently shut it down contained editorial comments of concern, such as anti-Semitic rants and references to lynchings.

White, who lives in Roanoke, is currently jailed without bond in the Roanoke City Jail in the custody of the U.S. Marshals, while he awaits extradition to federal court in Chicago. His attorney said White will fight the transfer so that he can take care of his local rental properties and his wife and 8-month old daughter.

The Illinois office of the U.S. Attorney says a tentative arraignment date for White in Chicago is set for Nov. 12.

Teri Whitcraft, Asa Eslocker, Joanna Jennings, and Rehab El-Buri contributed to this report.

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