Richard Quinn has been quoted in the press as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s longtime political adviser and his consultant and pollster. But there’s another title that Quinn once held: neo-Confederate magazine editor.
From early 1980s until the early 2000s, Quinn’s name stood on the masthead as the editor-in-chief of the Southern Partisan, formerly one of the country’s leading neo-Confederate magazines (it still exists in a barebones online version). Quinn has tried to distance himself from the magazine in the past (he says he doesn’t like the term neo-Confederate), and after being contacted by BuzzFeed News, repudiated his past views and those of the magazine.
It was in his capacity as editor that Quinn wrote that Martin Luther King Jr.’s role in the Civil Rights movement was “to lead his people into a perpetual dependence on the welfare state, a terrible bondage of body and soul.” He called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and a “bad egg.” He wrote positively of David Duke’s election: “What better way to reject politics as usual than to elect a maverick like David Duke?” In one column, he called Martin Luther King Day’s purpose “vitriolic and profane.”
Today, Quinn says he’s come to admire King and Mandela. “I wrote some things on the wrong side of history,” he told BuzzFeed News.
He had previously spoken of the columns with regret in 2001, when the issue of Quinn’s past came up while serving as an adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign.
Since 1993, Graham has paid Quinn and the consulting firm he’s operated at least hundreds of thousands of dollars. Graham’s campaign paid his firm more than $200,000 last cycle alone. Quinn downplayed that money to BuzzFeed News, calling it a “cheap shot” to link it directly to him; he noted that only a fraction went to his firm, and much of the money was spent on work for Graham.
“I’ve been with (Graham) since he ran for Congress in ‘93, and whatever Lindsey does this cycle, I’ll be in his corner,” Quinn said in one interview last year.
In 1999, Graham himself did a lengthy question and answer with the Southern Partisan on his life and the Clinton impeachment. A spokesman for Graham said they were waiting to comment until after this story was published.
Quinn’s writings, which garnered press 15 years ago (with occasional rehashes from liberal bloggers sometimes taking quotes out of context) during the McCain campaign, have done little harm to his reputation or that of his well-regarded consulting firm.
He maintained to BuzzFeed News that he didn’t do much work for the Southern Partisan. He said he regarded it as a client of his consulting firm and said it was a mistake to appear on the masthead. He said fellow editors did most of the work.
Quinn did write for the magazine, though.
“…[M]assive evidence suggests that slave families were rarely separated,” Quinn wrote in a 1983 column for the magazine, discussing a Newsweek article that described the break up of a slave family. “Efforts were made uniformly across the South to keep families together (in part because good morale was good for business). The record also shows that many freed slaves stayed South, kept close ties with their former owners and found for themselves a life altogether more satisfying than their cousins who ended up sleeping with rats in Harlem.”
In another column from that year, Quinn said Martin Luther King Day “should have been rejected because its purpose is vitriolic and profane.”
“King’s memory represents, more than anything else, the idea that institutional arrangement — laws, ordinances and tradition — should be subordinated to the individual’s conscience,” wrote Quinn. “The brand of civil disobedience he preached (and for which he is remembered) exhorts his followers to regard social reform as a process to be carried out in the streets.”
He concluded: “Ignoring the real heroes in our nation’s life, the blacks have chosen a man who represents not their emancipation, not their sacrifices and bravery in service to their country; rather, they have chosen a man whose role in history was to lead his people into a perpetual dependence on the welfare state, a terrible bondage of body and soul.”
In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Quinn said today he believes King’s strategy of civil disobedience worked, and he’s come to admire his philosophy.
“By today’s standard he was a moderate… I admire him,” Quinn said.
In a column on David Duke’s election to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1989, Quinn called Duke a complex man, and attacked the “smug media celebrities who had planned to make giblet gravy” out of his appearances on TV.
“David Duke didn’t quite comply with their carefully cultivated stereotype of the Southern redneck,” he wrote. “He wasn’t fat or illiterate. He didn’t even chew tobacco. Duke turned out to be smoothly polished and articulate, with a quick smile and a clean-cut almost innocent look. Under tough interrogation by the best in the business, he handled himself pretty well.”
He wrote positively of Duke’s agenda and said his election was a rejection of politics as usual.
“What a better way to reject politics as usual than to elect a maverick like David Duke? What better way to tweak the nose of the establishment?”
In 1990, Quinn wrote negatively about Nelson Mandela, whom he called a “terrorist” and a “bad egg” and said his visit to the United States “demonstrated that the opinion industry in America has also made a mockery of the First Amendment.”
“How many people out there across the face of America are well aware that Mandela is a bad egg, maybe even say so in the comfort and security of their homes, but are afraid to express their real opinions publicly,” wrote Quinn.
“After all, Mr. Mandela was put in jail 27 years ago – not because of his humanitarian philosophy – but because he was a terrorist who openly advocated (and personally committed) violence against the government,” he added.
In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Quinn argued many of his views from the 1980s were mainstream at the time. He said his column wasn’t “a defense of David Duke” but of “the voters of his district” who elected the former Klan leader to the Louisiana State House. Quinn also said he’s come to admire Mandela, saying the details of Mandela’s early life “are no longer relevant.”
Beyond the magazine, Quinn also entered the fray on some Confederate-related issues.
In 1999, when South Carolina was debating keep the Confederate battle flag over the statehouse, Quinn was one of a number of those quoted in an Associated Press article as flag defenders arguing blacks fought for the confederacy. His son, a state legislator at the time, also took an active role in the debate.
“Tens of thousands of blacks took an active military role for the south,” said the elder Quinn according to the AP.
An article he wrote for Partisan slammed the tireless “militant groups” seeking to redefine the Confederate flag.
“Tirelessly militant groups are out there who seek to define the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of hate, no better than the Swastika. Their goal is to rape history and make Southerners ashamed of their past. We must employ all the strategic skill we can muster to prevent them from winning this defining battle. Losing, while persuading ourselves that we are wrapped in the glorious cause is not the answer. We must find a way to win.”
The article called Quinn “a founder” of the magazine. Quinn today said that was a mistake. He said he only wrote his column when the magazine needed to fill space.
“I expressed views 15 to 20 years ago I no longer hold,” Quinn told BuzzFeed News. “In a fair world you’re writing a story that shouldn’t be written.”
An Associated Press report in 2001 described Quinn as the part owner of the Partisan. Corporation filings with the state of South Carolina filed in 1986 also listed Quinn as the registered agent for the Partisan.
Quinn’s past neo-Confederate views and magazine editing have been long-known. In 2000, People for the American Way (which provided BuzzFeed News with original copies of the Southern Partisan on request) asked McCain’s presidential campaign to fire Quinn in a letter for his past work with the Southern Partisan. It briefly became an issue during the campaign.
At the time, then-Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer said Quinn’s writings were “offensive.” McCain stood by Quinn and said he had never read his writing. He cited Quinn’s work for Ronald Reagan, Strom Thurmond, and others.
Quinn at the time also tried to distance himself from the magazine’s content.
”I am not the working day-to-day editor of Southern Partisan,” he told the New York Times in 2000. ”My title as editor in chief is purely honorary. Frankly, I do not personally read the articles before they are printed, and I certainly disagree with many of the opinions expressed by others on the pages of the magazine.”
The Southern Partisan wrote an editorial in late 1999 that claimed some quotes from other authors were taken out-of-context (it does seem some of the quotes from 1999 were taken out-of-context), but the editorial didn’t contest anything Quinn had written.
By 2001, Quinn’s name was off the masthead on the website. The Associated Press reported at the time that it was because the association with the magazine was damaging his clients.
Quinn said he couldn’t remember when he stopped editing for the Southern Partisan, although he once wrote of being in the office of the magazine in 1993. Quinn today called that “speaking loosely” saying the “office” at the Partisan was the desk of a Partisan colleague at his consulting firm.
“I kept trying to get someone else to edit because I didn’t want to do it,” Quinn said.
Years before, however, in 1988, a Washington Post story noted the magazine in an article about Quinn’s work as a speechwriter for Pat Robertson’s campaign. In that article, Quinn defended the magazine:
“The magazine is about the soul of the South,” said Quinn in 1988. “There are traditions for respect for the land, family integrity and honor, a strong belief in God and the power of prayer … The South has historically been given the guilt of slavery. People seem to forget that slavery was an economic transaction, shipped in through Northern ports and sold to Southern planters … To understand the Old South it’s much more important to understand religion.”
In 1999, Graham spoke with the Southern Partisan for a lengthy question-and-answer interview on his life and time in Congress. The interview did not touch on any neo-Confederate topics, and Quinn told BuzzFeed News that he was not present for the interview (Quinn said the magazine also interviewed other people such as Willard Scott, Trent Lott, Walter Williams, John Ashcroft, John Shelton Reed, Patrick McSweeeny, and Thad Cochran).
The issue that Graham’s interview ran in featured full-page ads for the book Was Jefferson Davis Right?, and an anti-George W. Bush article slamming him for speaking even mildly supportively of gay rights by pledging to hire openly-gay people to his administration. An opinion column on the page following Graham’s interview attacked the theory of evolution and another article called for removing children from all public schools.
That issue’s “General Store Catalogue” featured a cotton t-shirt labeled “I have a dream” on the front, and featuring an image of a Confederate flag flying over the White House. A shirt labeled “Lincoln’s Worst Nightmare” on the front featured southern flags with the words “A States Rights Republican Majority From Dixie” imprinted on the back.
Quinn said the catalogue was a revenue-raising project for the magazine, he said he didn’t even know of the store at a time.
“I agree the South was wrong on slavery,” Quinn told the Washington Post in 2001. “But that’s not to say the South was wrong to defend states’ rights. Or to fight the centralization of power in Washington.”
Quinn told BuzzFeed News he didn’t endorse or agree with many things which appeared in the magazine. He said it would be unfair to judge him or his clients by their contents, just as it would be unfair to judge the Washington Post’s editor by everything that appeared on the editorial page.
A collection of writings (many of which were cover stories) from the magazine during Quinn’s tenure, published in the book put out by the magazine’s former publisher (with the introduction by Quinn). The book, So Good A Cause, A Decade of Southern Partisan, has essays like “John C. Calhoun Vindicated,” “The World After the South Won,” “The Dark Side of Abraham Lincoln,” “The Truth about Jefferson Davis,” and “Why Yankees Won’t (And Can’t) Leave the South Alone.”
“The World After the South Won” a 1984 article by Sheldon Vanauken imagines Great Britain intervening on the side of the Confederacy, and a Confederate victory in the war. The article portrays Confederate soldiers helping defeat Germany in World War I, and attacks “the barbarism of Generals Sherman and Sheridan and ‘Beast’ Butler.”
Arguing that slavery would have eventually ended by being phased out in the late 1800s (“all slaves born after the last day of 1879 would be free; and the Confederacy thereupon [would have] embarked on that benign programme of slowly raising the Negro to the limits of his ability”) it attacks “the sinister Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln — an invitation to the slaves to rise against their masters…”
“The Dark Side of Abraham Lincoln,” by a 1985 article by Tom Landess further argues that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation for propaganda purposes, and to encourage slaves towards violence against Southern women and children left unchaperoned on the home-front. According to the article, the Proclamation was designed “to send a message to Southern slaves who might be willing to rise against households without males to defend them.”
The author goes on to complain about “political exploitation and…such discriminatory legislation as the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 and gratuitous renewal in 1984. Those laws are bad not so much because of their severe provisions but because they assume that the integrated South deserves punitive treatment while the still-segregated North does not. And for that kind of moral abuse we can thank Abraham Lincoln.”
An article, “Why the South Fought,” in 1984 by Sheldon Vanauken, speaks romantically of the cause of the Confederacy. It likewise argues that slavery would have been ultimately phased out of the Confederacy.
“It fought for a way of life based upon slavery, not for slavery — an essential distinction, for squirearchy could have been based on serfdom or tenantry and have been fought for — and against — all the same. To say that the South’s cause — freedom — was stained by slavery is to say that the cause of the Greeks at Marathon was stained by slavery.”
Another article, “Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Death of Heroes,” in 1984 by J.O. Tate, attempted to downplay Forrest’s association with the early Ku Klux Klan arguing that a distinction should be made between the post-Civil War KKK and that of the 1920s.
“Sinister legends and contemporary apprehensions aren’t helpful in understanding the context in which the first Klan was formed: disorder, violence, ‘Union Leagues,’ Federal occupation. But there is a distinction to be made between the first Klan and the xenophobic Klan of the 1920s and today.”
The book, So Good A Cause, is dedicated to professor M.E. Bradford. Bradford himself wrote for the Partisan, and Quinn’s introduction to the book describes Bradford’s involvement in the magazine, and Quinn’s sadness to learn of his death.
In an article in the March 1992 issue of Texas Monthly, Bradford is quoted as telling the author: “I am not a scientific racist. I don’t believe that Negroes are genetically inferior. But history shows that blacks have had a hard time in this country, that they are kind of a fifth wheel. That’s just an observation of fact.”
Today, Quinn considered himself to be “a mainstream southern conservative.” He added, “it really hurts me” BuzzFeed News was writing the story or linking it to Graham.
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