MANCHESTER, N.H. — MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Patrick J. Buchanan's surging presidential campaign hit a jarring bump yesterday as one of his campaign co-chairmen stepped aside after a report that he had links to the Aryan Nation white sup of America, called the charges "vicious and false," and Mr. Buchanan said at a news conference here, "I believe him."
The Republican presidential hopeful said that Mr. Pratt denied the associations in a phone conversation with Angela "Bay" Buchanan, Mr. Buchanan's sister and national campaign manager, but was taking "a leave of absence" so he would not be "a distraction to the campaign."
But it quickly became clear that he had already achieved that status as Mr. Buchanan was peppered throughout the day with questions about the allegations against Mr. Pratt. The candidate said he knew nothing about them, and he referred all questions to Mr. Pratt.
Mr. Pratt said he resented "the smear campaign against me" and ascribed it to Mr. Buchanan's blossoming popularity in the days leading up to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. He added:"I loathe the Aryan Nation and other racist groups with every fiber in my being. I resent being identified with their agenda."
The allegations surfaced in a report by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based organization that conducts research on ethics in politics. It charged that Mr. Pratt "has a track record of working with leaders of the Aryan Nation, a white supremacist organization that organizes neo-Nazi skinheads, and leaders of the militia movement."
The report said the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that conducts research into racism, "has singled out Pratt for introducing the concept of militias to the right-wing underground," and that in 1992, he spoke to a meeting in Colorado of "Christian Identity, an organization that supports violence to promote white supremacy on the concept of militias, which he modeled after the Guatemalan civil defense patrols, the infamous death squads that fight against suspected Guatemalan guerrillas."
The center said others at the meeting included Louis Beam, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan and official of the Aryan Nation. It said Mr. Pratt acknowledged that he attended "but didn't hold the views of everyone there." It quoted him as saying that "we don't prioritize allies, we prioritize positions, and we're willing to go anywhere and work with anyone for our issue," which is defense of the right to bear arms.
A tape of Mr. Pratt's comments on "police state tactics" and the "erosion of Second Amendment rights" was included in the items for sale from the Rocky Mountain rendezvous, according to Robert Crawford, a researcher with the Seattle-based Coalition for Human Dignity.
Mr. Pratt identified himself as a member of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership and the Congress of Racial Equality. He observed that "one of my pastors is an African-American" and "20 percent of my employees are either Jewish or African-American."
The center's report did not charge anti-Semitism, but it is an issue that has long haunted Mr. Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan's reference to the pro-Israel lobby in Washington as Israel's "amen corner" triggered attacks from the American Jewish community in his 1992 presidential campaign.
Mr. Crawford, however, said Mr. Pratt was listed as a speaker for the September 1995 convention of the Liberty Lobby, an anti-Semitic organization. A tape of his speech was sold by the group, he said.
Mr. Crawford said another top official of the Buchanan campaign, Donald Wildmon, should be looked at. He cited a 1994 report on the religious right by the Anti-Defamation League, which discussed Mr. Wildmon's alleged anti-Semitism.
Mr. Wildmon could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mr. Buchanan, in saying he believed Mr. Pratt's denials, observed that "if this is a group preaching white supremacy in my country, I want no part of it. My campaign is inclusive."
At the close of the candidates' debate last night, he complained about "the savage attack" against his co-chairman, saying: "Larry stood by me when nobody else did back in 1992, and I'm going to stand by him."
The report on Mr. Pratt, and his swift departure from the Buchanan campaign, came as Mr. Buchanan appeared to be building momentum in his drive to unseat Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole as the front-runner for his party's nomination. He is running just behind or essentially even with him in most New Hampshire polls.
The allegations against Mr. Pratt surfaced as the Dole campaign aired a new television ad warning that Mr. Buchanan was an "extremist" who once advocated giving nuclear weapons to Taiwan and other countries.
In a new ad of his own, Mr. Buchanan replied that "name-calling doesn't bother me, but distortions do. For the record, I have never advocated giving our nuclear weapons to anyone. And Bob Dole knows it."