Imagine if you will, a man is elected to Congress who openly spites the president who is a member of his party and a resident of his district, a man who is kicked out of the John Birch Society, a man whose primary point of contention with his also conservative opponent is on the subject of birth control, a man who makes his predecessor James B. Utt look moderate by comparison, and a man who sees fit to run for president after little more than a term in Congress. What you have, ladies and gentlemen, is the one and only John G. Schmitz (1930-2001).
Schmitz’s foray into politcs began during his time in the Marines, when as a lieutenant colonel he was teaching a course on communism. One night in 1962 he witnessed a woman being attacked with a knife on the side of the road and with the sheer command of his voice he disarmed the attacker. Although the woman died of her wounds, Schmitz was regarded as a hero and conservatives in Orange County were keen to recruit him to run for public office. In 1964, he won election to the state Senate representing the county. During this time, Schmitz was certainly the most right-wing figure in the California Senate. A prominent member of the John Birch Society, he claimed the Watts riots were a communist operation and spoke against the Mulford Gun Control Bill, which prohibited open carry and was at the time a consensus measure from both the right and left and had the endorsement of the National Rifle Association as well as the approval of Governor Ronald Reagan. To him, Reagan’s approval constituted a betrayal for conservatives. This placed Schmitz in the same camp as the Black Panthers, the group at which the legislation was aimed. Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed!
On March 1, 1970, Congressman Utt, who I have covered before, keeled over from a heart attack and who else but State Senator Schmitz was the candidate to succeed him? Schmitz, campaigning with the slogan, “When You’re Out of Schmitz, You’re Out of Gear!”, based on a Schlitz beer commercial of the time, won the election and proceeded to be among the most conservative members of Congress, supporting Nixon when he supported conservatism. Both his lifetime ACA and MC-Index scores are a whopping 99%. He wrote the introduction to Gary Allen’s and Larry Abraham’s None Dare Call It Conspiracy (1971), which alleges that there is a global world order conspiring to accomplish communism in many different countries with policies such as an income tax, a central bank, and explode the national debt through deficit spending. Like Schmitz, Allen and Abraham were prominent members of the John Birch Society. He became notorious for his offensive and at times hilarious remarks, which are at the bottom of this post. However, one remark that offended his most famous constituent was, “I have no objection to President Nixon going to China, I just object to his coming back” (Cannon). Nixon, who was between the moderate to liberal Republicans and the conservatives, was pissed, and he recruited Orange County assessor Andrew J. Hinshaw to defeat him for renomination. Hinshaw was successful, but unlike Schmitz he turned out to be a crook and would be sentenced to prison in 1976 for accepting bribes as assessor.
Having been defeated for renomination, he stood in place of George Wallace for the American Independent Party nomination after he had been shot and paralyzed from the waist down by would-be assassin Arthur Bremer. Although he was not the only Republican to challenge Nixon for president as Congressmen John Ashbrook of Ohio and Pete McCloskey of California ran for the Republican nomination from his right and left respectively, neither chose to challenge him in the general election. Schmitz got over a million votes, having his best performance in Idaho. He was not done with politics, however, and in 1978 he was again elected to the California Senate.
Feud with Gloria Allred and Downfall
Schmitz, who as a Catholic was staunchly pro-life, in 1981 held hearings on abortion, in which feminist attorney Gloria Allred testified for the pro-choice position and subsequently presented him with a chastity belt. Schmitz’s committee subsequently issued a press release written by aide Brad Evans under instructions from Schmitz to “blast Allred” with the following headline, “Senator Schmitz and His Committee Survive Attack of the Bulldykes”, in which his opponents were described as having “hard, Jewish and (arguably) female faces” and referred to Allred as a “slick, butch lawyeress” (Deutsch). The press release also denounced opposition witnesses as “imported lesbians from anti-male and pro-abortion queer groups in San Francisco and other centers of decadence” (Deutsch). Allred sued Schmitz for defamation and the case was settled for $20,000 and a public apology. This incident cost him both his committee chairmanship and his membership in the John Birch Society.
In 1982, Schmitz was invited by Yasser Arafat to meet in Beirut, because according to him “I used the word Jewish in a non-adulatory manner”, which he accepted and agreed to act as his messenger in the US (Macdonald). He subsequently held a press conference outlining Arafat’s peace plan, which was timed to happen during Passover. Allred was present and placed a box of frogs before Schmitz, shouting, “A plague on the house of Schmitz!” (Macdonald). That year he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the Senate, with Arafat at his side. However, Schmitz’s political career came to a catastrophic end that year, when it was exposed that he had fathered two children with Carla Stuckle, who had been a student of his when he was teaching political science at Santa Ana College. He refused to support the children. Schmitz had repeatedly stressed family values during his career and had proven a massive hypocrite, and that was just too much for early 1980s Orange County. Never again did he run for office, and by the 1990s he was running a trinkets stand in Washington D.C.
In that decade, his daughter, Mary Kay Letourneau, was charged with statutory rape for having a relationship with a 13-year old student. Although Schmitz tried to defend her with an archaic argument from Blackstone’s dictionary about statutory rape being only a crime that men can commit, she was convicted in 1997. He spent his last years living at a Virginia winery his children had bought him. On January 10, 2001, Schmitz died of prostate cancer at 70. He also may have been a Holocaust denier if his tribute from Mark Weber of The Journal for Historical Review, the publishing arm of the Institute For Historical Review is accurate. Weber stated he was a friend of the group, helped them secure a venue, was a subscriber, and attended two conferences. IHR was founded in 1978 by notorious white supremacist and anti-Semite Willis Carto as a pseudo-academic group to spread Holocaust denial. One can only speculate how Schmitz would have done on Twitter had he lived into the era of social media, but there’s one guarantee: it would be a wild ride!
The Quotable Schmitz, most of these quotes are from Coker (2001):
“I may not be Hispanic, but I’m close. I’m Catholic with a mustache.”
“I would have voted for a three-tier system – have one school that the blacks could go to, one school that all the whites could go to, and those who want to mix go to a third school.”
“A good military coup might be the best we could hope for if President Reagan’s policies are not successful. A lot of people can’t imagine anything like that happening in our country. These same people could never imagine themselves stealing to stay alive.”
“Hello, all you commies. I want to deny the rumors that I have been attending candidates’ school in Chile or Argentina.”
“I ought to get the Right to Life man-of-the-year award for this.” – In response to revelations about fathering illegitimate children.
“Jews are like everybody else, only more so.”
“I wished to identify with the moderate wing of the Republican Party in Orange County.” – On joining the John Birch Society.
“I didn’t know we were supposed to come in uniform” (Cannon). – In response to seeing two conservatives in brown suits at an Orange County conservative meeting.
“I lost the presidency by a mere 44 million votes.”
“Martin Luther King is a notorious liar.”
“Basically, an honest man who just didn’t realize the immensity of what he was up against. In a way, I’m sympathetic to him despite his mistakes because he was so easily caricatured, and I’ve seen myself caricatured. And if I were a more important figure, I’d be caricatured in history books, too.” – On Joseph McCarthy.
Cannon, C.M. (2021, February 19). Great American Stories: John G. Schmitz’s Quote. RealClearPublicAffairs.
Coker, M. (2001, January 18). John G. Schmitz, In His Own Words. OC Weekly.
Deutsch, L. (1986, August 22). Feminist Wins Apology From Ex-Legislator Over ‘Butch’ Comment. Associated Press.
Emery, D. Did the NRA Support a 1967 ‘Open Carry’ Ban in California? Snopes.
Macdonald, K. (1982, April 9). Schmitz, Plagued by Frogs, Recites Arafat Peace Plan. The Washington Post.
Weber, M. (2001). John Schmitz, RIP. The Journal of Historical Review, 19(6).