Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo loves him some hate groups.
For a college football game day, the South Carolina State Museum in downtown Columbia was a busy place on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 9.
On the ground floor, a United States Army brass band commemorated the victims of 9/11. One level up, not far from the museum’s permanent Confederate Army exhibit, the state chapter of the League of the South (LOS), a neo-Confederate hate group, hosted a barbeque in honor of Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, head of the House Immigration Reform Caucus and likely contestant in the 2008 GOP presidential primary. Proceeds from the $15 per-plate fundraiser went to Americans Have Had Enough!, a South Carolina-based non-profit coalition for which Tancredo serves as honorary chairman.
While Tancredo’s hard-line “deport ’em all” stance on immigration has made him a favorite politician of white supremacists, this marked the first time the congressman has appeared at a hate group event.
Tancredo’s appearance was part of a five-day sweep through conservative South Carolina, which hosts an early GOP primary and has seen the Southeast’s largest percentage gain in foreign-born residents since the 2000 Census. Rising to his friendly audience, Tancredo blasted South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham for being too soft on immigration and basked in the long applause that followed his harangues against illegal immigrants and “the cult of multiculturalism” that glorifies disunity and refuses to acknowledge the “Christian principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.” (Tancredo did not appear to grasp the irony of addressing the “lack of unity” in America in front of a group dedicated to Southern secession.)
At the close of Tancredo’s speech, several men in confederate-themed clothing stood up and bellowed the first notes of “Dixie,” the Confederate anthem. They were soon joined by voices from throughout the large hall, which was now entirely on its feet. Tancredo, a second-generation Italian-American from Denver, appeared confused by the sudden burst of strange song. He quickly worked his way toward the exit with his staff.
Trancredo’s encounter with the League of the South continued outside. On the steps of the museum, Tancredo held court with LOS officials and supporters in Confederate clothing. He held a batch of the materials being distributed at the barbeque, among them a copy of the The Citizen’s Informer, the newspaper of the Conservative Citizens Council, the racist organization that grew out of the segregationist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s. When questioned about the newspaper, Tancredo responded that he did not know its history.