Man Behind Willie Horton Ad Is Out to Save America from the Mormons

Fred Karger, the man who gave America the infamously racist anti-Dukakis “Willie Horton” attack ads during the 1988 presidential campaign, is back in politics. With a vengeance.

After buildling a cottage industry celebrating himself as the heroic face of “Californians Against Hate” during the 2008 Proposition 8 campagin, Karger (who identifies as a gay Jewish Republican) has announced that he’s running for President.

And he’s got his sights on Mitt Romney.

Michelle Goldberg reported this week in Tablet that Karger’s explicit goal in running for president is to use all possible campaign airtime to embarrass the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Mitt Romney by constantly discussing the Church’s role in the Proposition 8 campaign. Karger hopes to torpedo Romney by calling attention to his often misunderstood and disliked faith and antagonize the LDS Church into getting out of the marriage equality business.

Strange logic, this: that calling attention to Romney’s anti-marriage equality record (an issue on which Mormons and evangelicals have made the rare common cause) will create a liability for Romney in the Republican primaries.

And even stranger logic, to believe that the LDS Church with its 14 million members worldwide (at least two of them US presidential contenders) is hitching its wagon to a Romney presidency. (Heck, we’ve had octogenarian Church leaders who blow Romney away in the charisma department.)

But strangest of all to me is that Karger’s claim (in the Tablet interview) that he himself “discovered” the extent of Mormon contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign. I know the activists who did that work, and none of them was named Fred Karger. He has already misrepresented his own record. UPDATE: See clarification below.

Are there consequences when a church plays an outsized role in a controversial political campaign to abolish civil marriage rights of loving and committed couples? Yes, there are. And Mormons (both gay and straight, marriage equality opponents and supporters) live with those consequences every day.

But it’s worth remembering that while Mormons (who make up 2% of the California population) may have given 50 – 70% of the money and walked the precincts in some California communities, it was millions upon millions of homophobic non-Mormon Californians of all faiths and colors who pulled the levers to end marriage equality in the Golden State.

If Karger thinks he can personally and individually defeat homophobia by running for president to antagonize Mormons, he is both foolish and vain.

CLARIFICATION: Karger and Californians Against Hate did reveal about $200,000 of in-kind donations by the institutional Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Karger did not reveal the majority of Yes on 8 funding—about $20 million dollars—-contributed by individual LDS Church members and identified by grassroots activists.

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