The Democratic nominee in the heated Alabama Senate race once defended a man in court who has ties to the Ku Klux Klan and Holocaust deniers, complicating his record on the campaign trail as a civil rights champion.
Former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones is running against Republican candidate Roy Moore for the Senate seat, which was long occupied by now-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Amid the turmoil in the Moore campaign over sexual abuse allegations, Jones has a shot to become the first non-Republican U.S. senator from the state in more than two decades. Moore is facing claims, which he denies, that he sexually assaulted one teenager and had a separate sexual encounter with a 14-year-old while he was in his 30s. As top Republicans call on Moore to step aside, President Trump on Tuesday stressed that the GOP nominee denies these claims and blasted Jones as a "liberal."
But the 63-year-old Democrat has built his campaign largely on his personal history and legal record during his stint as a U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, where he successfully prosecuted two KKK members linked to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 that left four African-American children dead.
Jones' strategy appears to be working: Not only have his chances of winning the Senate seat increased, but the media have showered Jones with positive coverage.
“Man Who Put KKK Behind Bars Will Now Try To Stop Roy Moore From Reaching Senate,” wrote liberal HuffPost. Mother Jones magazine, meanwhile, asked their readers: “He Beat the KKK. Can He Convince Alabama to Reject Bigotry Again?”
Defended extremist in 1980s
But while Jones and the media tout his prosecution of the KKK members, his lesser-known record as a private defense attorney in the 1980s is often overlooked. In one case, he defended Tom Posey, the infamous figure during the Iran-Contra scandal, who had ties with the KKK and Holocaust deniers.
Posey was a well-known Alabama right-wing extremist activist. In 1983, he founded the Civilian Military Assistance (CMA), a paramilitary group that first provided arms and training to rebels in Nicaragua, but later expanded its activities and gained notoriety in 1986 after holding 15 illegal immigrants at gunpoint after they tried to cross the border from Mexico, the Arizona Republic reported July 8, 1986.
Jones represented Posey in 1987 amid allegations of illegal arms shipping to the Nicaraguan rebels fighting the socialist government at a time when such activity was prohibited as the U.S. was not officially at war with Nicaragua. He got off the charges thanks to Jones' representation.
It was no secret in Alabama that the group began as an adjunct to the KKK. United Press International reported in 1986, a year before Jones defended Posey, that the CMA “is trailed by hints of shadowy connections, ranging from the CIA to the Ku Klux Klan, and members have been charged with an assortment of Latin American mischief, including gun running, drug smuggling and assassination plots.”
The Jones campaign ignored Fox News’ requests for an interview, instead releasing a statement asserting Jones’ progressive record on civil and human rights.
"Doug’s commitment to civil and human rights has been unwavering, as demonstrated by his well-documented career,” the campaign spokesperson said. “This case only involved Posey’s activities with the Contras and these charges were dismissed by a federal judge in Florida. Doug also represented Mr. Posey when he cooperated with congressional investigators.”
Group member celebrated Hitler's birthday
Among the most hardline members of the CMA group was Chicago chapter leader Arthur Jones, described by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as “a long-time neo-Nazi who has been involved with anti-Semitic and racist groups since the 1970s.”
Throughout his lifetime, he attended multiple neo-Nazi rallies, celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday, and once said the Holocaust is a lie “and nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews."
John Matthews, a former white supremacist who was part of the CMA since 1985 and left only after becoming an FBI informant in the 1990s, told Newsweek magazine in 2011 that following the covert war in Nicaragua, he traveled the country together with Posey, meeting former Klan leaders, attending parties with the KKK and “sitting in church pews with would-be abortion-clinic bombers.”
The Jones campaign did not respond to follow-up questions to its statement, and did not answer directly when asked whether the candidate was aware at the time of Posey's other activities.