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Called Out, Anti-Immigrant Movement Just Can’t Let Go of Father John

Rev. David L. Ostendorf • May 04, 2011

Roy Beck

With money and media masters at their side one would think that the big-name nativists featured in a recent New York Times article would have handled the story of their kinship with John Tanton, the “anti-immigrant crusader” who birthed them, with more aplomb.  Instead, they just keep generating more questions, more inquiries, and more doubt by their defensiveness and their clumsy handling of their on-again, off-again relationship with the infamous nativist.  The big guys at FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA need help.

NumbersUSA’s Roy Beck, for example couldn’t resist falling back to his whiny, poor me, “some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)” response to matters of race and immigrants. He told the Times that he lives in a racially mixed neighborhood, shops in stores with immigrant clerks, and always stood up against racism and hate.  A few days later Beck slammed the newspaper for its “smear” of John Tanton, and then proceeded to sing his own praises—and to raise money from his fans—for the “compliments” the Times showered on his organization for its reported impact on federal immigration policy. 

At least Beck used the piece to build his budget; the big guys at FAIR and CIS just couldn’t stop their very public nitpicking with the Times reporter, and came out of the affair looking like organizational neophytes.

Beck has always played the innocent when it comes to his relationship with John Tanton. In the group’s recent fundraiser he fell back on the nativist mantra de jour when it comes to Tanton—that attacks on Father John and his organizational offspring are all due to “some private letters he wrote decades ago” and have little bearing on the present or, on the other hand, that they are victims of guilt by association.

That treasure trove of scurrilous letters, which Tanton is said to have given so magnanimously to the University of Michigan Bentley Library, are now coming back to haunt him and the offspring.  Beck knew him well back in the day, worked with him closely, and even served as Washington editor of the Social Contract, the infamous white nationalist journal that Tanton founded in 1990.

In last week’s fundraiser, Beck’s VP of Operations asserted that “…there is nothing in NumbersUSA 16-year history to justify any suggestions of racism,” as if to imply that Roy Beck, Tanton disciple, shed his association with the patriarch and started his organization out of a new bolt of cloth, free of Tantonite threads. Nothing could be further from reality.

Tanton has always cast a long shadow on Beck  In 1997 Beck made a presentation at the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) National Conference—the successor organization to the old White Citizens Councils. In a confidential memo on January 6, 1998, Tanton thanked Beck for “his willingness” to be his (Tanton’s) “heir apparent” at U.S., Inc.  From 1994-2001 Beck received some $750,000 in consulting fees from U.S., Inc., one of Tanton’s pet organizations. From 1994 until 2005 Beck had sixteen articles published in the white nationalist Social Contract journal.  No suggestions of racism here, eh?  And the list goes on.

Beck is a Tantonite through and through. Try as he may to distance himself from the “smears” of the press or the truth of his relationship with John Tanton, neither he nor his colleagues at FAIR and CIS can shed the influence of the anti-immigrant crusader on their cause.  Father John—Tanton himself—lives in and on and through them.

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