On September 8, 1988, Washington Jewish Week (with a circulation of 20,000) disclosed that Vice President George Bush had appointed an ethnic coalition for his campaign that included a number of outspoken antisemites with Nazi and fascist affiliations. The article prompted the resignation of six leaders of the GOP’s ethnic outreach division. Although the resignations were widely reported, few major media investigated the actual charges or explored their implications.
The New York Times, in particular, downplayed the significance of the Nazi/GOP connection, burying the news that six Republican ethnic leaders had quit the campaign on page 24 of the D Section (9/13/88) under the headline “A Decisive Baker Puts His Mark on Bush Race.” The article by Gerald M. Boyd treated the resignation of the discredited ethnic officials less as a scandal than as evidence of Jim Baker’s “authority” in running the Bush campaign.
Unlike most media, the Philadelphia Inquirer featured a series of investigative pieces which documented the Nazi link. A front-page lead story (9/10/88) detailed the sordid past of men like Florian Galdau, the national chairman of Rumanians for Bush, who defended convicted war criminal Valerian Trifa; Radi Slavoff, co-chairman of Bulgarians for Bush, who arranged a 1983 event in Washington that honored Austin App, author of several texts denying the existence of the Holocaust; Phillip Guarino, chairman of the Italian-American National Republican Federation, who belonged to a neofascist masonic lodge implicated in terrorist attacks in Italy and Latin America; Bohdan Fedorak, vice chairman of Ukrainians for Bush, who was also a leader of a Nazi collaborationist organization involved in anti-Polish and anti-Jewish wartime pogroms; and Croatian fascist Jerome Brentar, co-chairman of the GOP ethnic coalition, who acknowledged that as an International Refugee Organization officer he helped hundreds of Nazis emigrate to the US after World War II. Brentar was the principal financial backer for the defense of convicted war criminal John Demjanjuk.
A spokesperson for Vice President Bush dismissed the charges against the six ethnic leaders as “politically inspired garbage,” claiming that the GOP looked into the allegations and “was unable to substantiate them” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/13/88). Most media printed this denial unchallenged.
A follow-up story in the Inquirer (9/18/88) summarized the findings of a recent report by Russ Bellant, titled The Old Nazis, the New Right and the Reagan Administration: The Role of Domestic Fascist Networks in the Republican Party and Their Effect on US Cold War Politics. Published by the Cambridge-based Political Research Associates, the report shows how the Bush campaign’s ethnic outreach program is rooted in a pro-Nazi emigré network dating back to the late 1940s. The GOP’s ethnic leaders were among thousands of extremists from Eastern Europe who were welcomed by the US government during the Cold War because of their vociferous anti-communism.
Boosted by CIA subsidies, these “captive nations” exiles succeeded in creating a genuine power base on the far right of the American political landscape. According to Bellant, some are still active in the Bush campaign. But this doesn’t seem to bother the US media, which are more interested in Bush’s repeated invocation of the Pledge of Allegiance as a campaign issue than in those GOP leaders who pledge their allegiance to other flags.