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Despite White Supremacist Ties, Nativist Minutemen Project Founder Gilchrist Stumped For GOP Candidates

Jim Gilchrist is sought by GOP candidates to burnish their tough-on-immigrant credentials, and treated by the media as a legitimate authority on immigration issues.

This article originally appeared on the Web site of Media Matters for America.

Last summer, Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist appeared on CNN's  Larry King Live to defend Arizona's notorious immigration crackdown law, SB 1070 .

The law requires that local and state police officers check the immigration status of any individual they encounter in the course of their law enforcement duties who the officer reasonably suspects to be an immigrant in the country illegally.

Pressed by CNN host Larry King to explain what sort of criteria officers might legitimately use, Gilchrist said, "Responding to an officer, 'No hablo English, Gringo go back to Europe.' Obviously there's an issue there that probably the person may be illegal and perhaps the officer should pursue that."

King identified Gilchrist as the founder and president of the Minuteman Project. That's half-true. Gilchrist is co-founder of the Minuteman Project, the nativist group that popularized the concept of placing armed but untrained civilian volunteers on the U.S.-Mexico border to discourage immigrants from entering the country illegally. But he's not been the group's president since February 2007 when the Minuteman Project board of directors fired Gilchrist for allegedly stealing donations.

Gilchrist promptly launched a new organization called Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project, which is little more than a Web site promoting Gilchrist.

Long after he was being drummed out of the civilian border patrol movement he played a major role in creating and despite repeated revelations of the white supremacist ties of his followers, including murderer Shawna Forde , Gilchrist continued to be invited to speak at universities and appear on major cable news shows. He's been treated by the media as a legitimate authority on immigration issues and often misidentified as the current president of the Minuteman Project.

Last campaign season, Gilchrist further raised his profile by endorsing and stumping for at least ten Republican state and national candidates who sought his help in burnishing their tough-on-immigration credentials. Through all this, Gilchrist has continued to deny that he misappropriated funds. On the issue of white supremacists involving themselves in the movement he played a major role in creating, however, Gilchrist expresses regret.

"Racial supremacists have been a thorn in my side from day one," he told me earlier this year. "They existed in the Minuteman movement, but they had no legitimate reason for being there, because they do nothing to promote equal treatment under the law for all, which after all was our main goal."

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again, that I am very, very disappointed and saddened at the outcome of the Minuteman Project and the citizen border watch movement," Gilchrist said. "All these different organizations and groups just started calling themselves Minuteman this or Minuteman that and unfortunately it turned out that some of the people involved in them had sinister intentions."

I witnessed Gilchrist's frustration with hate group members on full-tilt display during a Minuteman rally in Washington D.C. held in February 2006. Gilchrist was speaking on the steps of the U.S. Capitol when his face suddenly contorted with rage.

"Nazis go to hell!" he yelled.

Striding toward Gilchrist were members of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group. They wore polished knee-high jackboots, brown shirts, black ties and swastika armbands.

Gilchrist was apoplectic. "Nazis go to hell!" he repeated. And then a variation: "Go to hell Nazis!"

It was one year after the launch of the Minuteman Project. Gilchrist was nearing the pinnacle of his power as ringmaster of the Minuteman circus. His group had garnered international media hype, spawned more than 40 imitators and ladled gas on the fire of the already resurgent American nativist movement. Later that year the Minutemen and their allies would play a key role in derailing immigration reform legislation proposed by a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and influential Republicans, including then-President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain.