A Loyola University Maryland economics professor is denying ties to a group that endorses a second Southern secession after he came under fire from a Missouri congressman because of the alleged association.
Thomas DiLorenzo, a Loyola professor since 1992, was in Washington on Wednesday to testify at a House subcommittee hearing on the Federal Reserve Bank. But Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat from St. Louis, quickly raised questions about DiLorenzo's ties to the League of the South, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"You work for a Southern nationalist organization that espouses very radical notions about American history and the federal government," said Clay in a volley that has become popular blog fodder over the past two days.
DiLorenzo rebutted the claim in a post on LewRockwell.com, an anti-big-government website, saying that he had merely delivered lectures on Civil War economics at the invitation of professors affiliated with the League of the South. He said he gave the lectures 13 years ago.
"That is the only connection I have ever had with the League of the South, which apparently still lists the titles of those old lectures somewhere on its web site," he wrote.
DiLorenzo reiterated his position in a phone interview Friday, saying of the league, "I don't endorse what they say and do any more than I endorse what Congress says and does because I spoke at a hearing on Wednesday."
But Heidi Beirich, research director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said DiLorenzo spoke at a League of the South event as recently as 2009 and has been listed as an affiliated scholar in the organization's publications over the years.
DiLorenzo countered that he was invited to the 2009 event in Tennessee by a minister who mentioned no connection to the league. He said he did not attend because the organizer told him the event was canceled due to a lack of money. "And even if I did speak at an event like that, so what?" he said. "I give speeches about Civil War economics to all kinds of people."
The League of the South describes itself as "a Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic." In a statement on its website, the board of directors say that "we bear no ill will or hatred to any racial, ethnic, or religious group."
Beirich said the Southern Poverty Law Center lists the league as a hate group because leaders have expressed desires to return to a pre-1865, white-dominated South.
DiLorenzo lashed back at Clay in his Web posting, writing, "As for the liars and bigots, one of the bigger ones, William Lacy Clay, a congressman from St. Louis who is (unfortunately) a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was in fine form."
He chided Clay for questioning his credentials as an economist and wrote that the congressman "slithered" out of the hearing room.
"He obviously didn't want to talk about my testimony," DiLorenzo said by phone. "All he did was deliver a libelous smear."
A spokesman for Clay did not return a call seeking comment.
After the meeting, subcommittee Chairman Ron Paul criticized Clay's behavior to Reuters, saying, "I think that's typical of people who can't compete on ideas, they have to try to discredit the individual."
When asked if Loyola had a comment on the episode, a spokeswoman said, "The best person for you to speak to is Dr. DiLorenzo."
DiLorenzo, 56, is known for his controversial views on Abraham Lincoln. He has written two books about the 16th president, arguing that the Civil War was not primarily motivated by a desire to end slavery and was instead a move to quash states' rights in favor of large, centralized government.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in 2004 described DiLorenzo as one of "the intellectuals who form the core of the modern neo-Confederate movement." The center spotlighted his thoughts on Lincoln, his teaching affiliation with the League of the South and his faculty position with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which it described as a "hard-right libertarian foundation in Alabama."
Beirich said DiLorenzo is linked to the League of the South by shared views on Lincoln and the Civil War. "He is probably the leading Lincoln revisionist out there," she said. "I'm not sure I would call him a hate peddler, but he promotes a really distorted view of the Civil War. … Whitewashing slavery is a bad thing."
Beirich also noted a 1995 essay under DiLorenzo's name in the Journal of Historical Review, a publication primarily known for Holocaust denial. DiLorenzo said the journal must have used the piece, defending South Carolina's flying of the Confederate battle flag, without his permission.
"I would never send an article to that thing," he said of the publication. "Of course not. They're crazy. I'm very disturbed to hear that."
DiLorenzo also attacked the Southern Poverty Law Center in his Web post about Clay's testimony. "Their modus operandi is to label any individual or group that effectively criticizes their far-left, socialistic agenda as a 'hater,'" he wrote. "Apparently, associating with anyone South of the Mason-Dixon line in any way qualifies one as a 'hater' and potential KKK recruit in the warped minds of the hateful and libelous SPLC."
"Fortunately," he said Friday, "it's still not against the law at Loyola to have divergent views on Lincoln."
DiLorenzo earned his doctorate from Virginia Tech and is an outspoken critic of policies that increase government. At the subcommittee hearing, he blamed the housing bubble on Alan Greenspan's policies as chairman of the Federal Reserve.
"The downside of the Fed's policy of lowering of interest rates, lower and lower, is that it deters savings," he said. "And savings and investment is really the key to having a sustainable economic growth and job creation."