Willis Carto, whose White supremacist and anti-Semitic activism via the organization he founded sixty years ago, the Liberty Lobby, its newspaper the Spotlight and successor organizations and publications gave rise to far right politics and persons across the spectrum from neo-Nazis to paleoconservatives to today’s libertarians, died Monday of cardiac arrest at the age of 89.
Born July 17, 1926 in Fort Wayne Indiana, Willis Allison Carto served in World War II, and after being wounded went back home where he became a salesman. Carto eventually got involved in political writing, publishing a monthly bulletin titled Right: The Journal of Forward-Looking American Nationalism in 1955. Eventually, he became mostly known for advancing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and was one of the first to promote the idea that the Holocaust in Nazi Germany that killed 11 million people, including 6 million Jews never happened. In 1955 he founded the Liberty Lobby who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, touted itself as a conservative, anti-Communist group but was actually an organization promoting white supremacy and antisemitism. Based in Washington, DC, the Liberty Lobby’s offices were in the National Press Building, and Carto had access to leading politicians until his brand of hate politics made him dangerous to work with. The Liberty Lobby’s newspaper the Spotlight began publishing in 1975 and critics immediately saw it as a recruiting tool for the far right. Carto also started Noontide Press which published racist books and pamphlets, including a republishing Imperium a book by Francis Parker Yockey that among other things argued the fall of the Third Reich was a temporary setback, and that fascists much engage in a “world-historical struggle”. Yockey was Carto’s biggest inspiration, and Carto visited him in 1960 while he was in prison for falsified passports. Yockey would later commit suicide while incarcerated.
Carto was also a staunch supporter of Alabama Governor George Wallace, co-authoring a pamphlet prior to his 1968 presidential run titled “Stand Up For America: The Story of George C. Wallace”. In he he praised Wallace as the only one of any of the candidates who could beat back “Blacky” and the Communist-dominated federal government. When Wallace’s campaign failed, Carto and American Nazi Party member William Pierce took over the organization Youth for Wallace and renamed it the National Youth Alliance. After a falling out with Carto, Pierce took over the organization, abolished the age limit and renamed the group the National Alliance which became one of the leading neo-Nazi organizations in the country until Pierce’s death in 2002.
Carto was also responsible for the formation of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) in 1978, an anti-Semitic organization that promotes Holocaust revisionism and is now run by former National Alliance member Mark Weber, and in 1984 was one of the founders of the Populist Party, with became the political party of note for figures like Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and militia leader “Bo” Gritz. As with Pierce there was infighting with both organizations and by 1994 the Populist Party was decimated with Carto attacking his old group regularly in the Spotlight and the IHR accusing Carto of fraud and financial mismanagement, voting to terminate his relationship with the organization. In 1996 after a series of disputes and lawsuits, a California Superior Court judge ruled against Carto, ordering him to pay IHR a judgement over $6 million. Carto and the Liberty Lobby filed for bankruptcy in response and the Liberty Lobby folded in 2001, which also shut down the Spotlight. A month after, Carto started the American Free Press (AFP) which not only continued the anti-Semitic activism of the Spotlight, but also promoted the White supremacist religion of Christian Identity that Carto became a follower of. Meanwhile, during all the legal entanglements, Carto also started the Barnes Review, a historical revisionist publication that competes with IHR’s Journal of Historical Review, and along with American Free Press is still operating. At the time of this posting, AFP has not announced Carto’s death.
Carto’s influence on right wing politics was so great that in his book Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, Leonard Zeskind dedicated the first chapter of the book’s prequel deconstructing him. “For more than fifty years, Willis Allison Carto marketed racism and antisemitism as if they were the solution to all the world’s ills, he wrote. “Yet he routinely kept himself out of the public limelight and did business behind a maze of corporate fronts. Most often, what is actually known about Willis Carto’s personal life comes largely from the mountains of court documents he created over the decades.” Indeed, for all his influence, Carto was famously reclusive. He seldom gave interviews and until recently was even more seldom photographed. He only began to make appearances in his later years at public events and rallies, including a rally for then-incarcerated Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel in 2007 outside Washington, DC’s German Embassy.
News of Carto’s death comes only eight months after he moved the offices of the Barnes Review and the American Free Press from Washington, DC to Prince Georges County, Maryland. At the time of his death he was living in Orange County, Virginia. He is survived by Elisabeth his wife of 57 years. They had no children.