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2 Candidates Deny Racist Links

Politics: Would-be Claremont school board members fend off claims they still associate with white supremacists.

September 20, 1999|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Police stopped Bunck and McGee several times near the store that year, files show, but the most serious encounter came outside the county jail in Los Angeles in April 1977. McGee, Bunck and another man were arrested after officers said they found a loaded, 9-millimeter handgun and a National Socialist White People's leaflet in the glove compartment of McGee's Mercedes-Benz, as well as two shotguns and a citizens band radio in the trunk.

Charges were later dropped or dismissed, files show.

When confronted with the information, McGee said he was framed.

"The [police] put a bunch of Nazi literature in my car," he said in a recent interview.

He also denied that the reading room carried Nazi literature. Any suggestion that it served as headquarters to Nazi groups, he added, is "total rubbish and lies."

But McGee acknowledged that he allowed organizers of a 1992 Labor Day "Aryan Fest" to use the sign-installation business he owned then to plan the event. Although McGee claimed he wasn't present for the meeting or the festival itself, the Baptist minister said the celebration, held near Barstow, was a "neat idea."

"They brought in a band from Sweden: No Remorse," he said.

However, Leyden, the Wiesenthal Center consultant, said McGee had more than a passing interest. Once an ardent Inland Empire skinhead before turning away from the white power movement, Leyden was chief organizer of the 1992 Aryan Fest. He said McGee was actively involved in the planning, even helping to get portable toilets for the event.

"He came to Aryan Fest," Leyden recalled.

Scrutiny by Watchdog Group

Most recently, the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the nation's foremost hate watchdogs, has identified McGee's JHM Baptist Church in the San Bernardino County community of Apple Valley as a white Christian Identity Church.

The center said McGee's church has advertised in a white-supremacy publication and, as recently as January, sent an e-mail out on a Web site belonging to the racist Nationalist Observer.

"This is the kind of church Buford Furrow and the Aryan Nations follow," said center Director Joe Roy. White Identity Christians believe that Jews resulted from a mating between Eve and Satan, Roy added.

Both school board candidates adamantly deny that the church is anything of the sort. They say it is a regular Baptist congregation of about 20 members.

"I have never heard Hale McGee preach racial hatred," said Bunck, a congregant who takes "great exception" to his church being called a hate group by the center.

So does McGee, who said he knew nothing about the advertisements cited as evidence by the center.

"I'm not a member of Aryan Nations nor the identity movement," McGee said. He called Metzger a "slime person" who's "never talked to me in 25 years" and said that, in fact, he's become a victim of guilt by association, just because he's tried to convert skinheads, Nazis and other white supremacists over the years.

"They don't like me because I'm a Christian," McGee said of the hate groups. "I've cost them a lot of members."

Claremont Mayor Karen Rosenthal said Bunck and McGee are certainly "stirring things up" and are a distraction from the needs of the schools and city.

"What is their true agenda?" she asked. "I don't believe anything they say."

Rosenthal said the city received numerous demands to yank their cable show, but the 1st Amendment prevents any such action. "In Claremont there are a lot of different views and challengers," she said. "I certainly won't vote for them."

School board incumbent Nat Lord, who is running for reelection, said this was not the kind of challenge he expected. "I haven't seen them participate in any school-related activities. But they are certainly generating controversy," he said. "I prefer the election focus on the schools."

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