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Alan Keyes

Dr. Alan Lee Keyes (born August 7, 1950) is an American politician and diplomat, considered one of the leading African Americans in the Republican Party. He served in the U.S. Foreign Service, appointed Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and then became U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations under President Ronald Reagan. Keyes is notable for his unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Presidency in 1996 and 2000, and for the U.S. Senate in 1988, 1992, and 2004.


Early life and family

Born in a naval hospital on Long Island in New York City, Keyes was the fifth child to Allison and Gerthina Keyes, a U.S. Army sergeant and a teacher. Due to his father's tours of duty, the Keyes family traveled frequently. Keyes lived in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and overseas in Italy.

After graduation from high school, Keyes attended Cornell University where he criticized local efforts in favor of the civil rights movement and opposed to the Vietnam War. Keyes received death threats and left the school. Invited to continue his studies at Harvard University, Keyes completed his B.A. degree in government affairs in 1972. He received his doctoral degree in government affairs in 1979, writing his dissertation on Alexander Hamilton and constitutional theory. Due to student deferments and a high draft number, Keyes was not drafted and avoided military service in Vietnam. His favorite professor at Cornell and Harvard was the conservative professor Allan Bloom.

Keyes is married to Jocelyn Marcel Keyes, an Indian American, whom he met during his service in Bombay. The couple have three children — Francis, Maya, and Andrew. Keyes is a Roman Catholic.

Maya Keyes deferred her entry to college by a year to campaign for her father's Senatorial bid in 2004, despite disagreeing with his political views. Rumors about her sexuality began to circulate in September 2004, creating a rift between her and her parents. In February 2005, after Maya Keyes agreed to speak at a rally sponsored by Equality Maryland , her parents threw her out of their home, refused to pay her college tuition fees and stopped speaking to her. At the rally she came out, describing herself as a "liberal queer". (The Washington Post (subscription required), The Advocate, CNN)


Just a year before completing his doctoral studies, Keyes joined the United States Department of State as a protégé of UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Keyes viewed Kirkpatrick as a mentor. In 1979, he was assigned to the consulate in Mumbai, India, where as a desk officer he met his wife Jocelyn. The following year, Keyes was sent to serve at the embassy in Zimbabwe. He settled in Washington, DC in 1981 as a member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan reappointed Keyes to the United Nations with the full rank of ambassador. He remained in the United Nations until 1987. That year, Keyes vehemently defended the Reagan policy against the imposition of economic sanctions on South Africa as punishment for apartheid. This was an unpopular position within the African American community, and Keyes was derided by other Black leaders. Keyes resigned in protest over a disagreement in relative United Nations funding. Keyes today remains critical of some UN activities and policies.

U.S. Senate campaigns in Maryland

After resigning from his diplomatic post, Keyes sought election to the United States Senate representing Maryland in 1988. With only 38 percent of the vote, he lost to incumbent Democrat Paul Sarbanes. In 1991, Keyes briefly served as the interim president of the historically black Alabama A&M University in Huntsville. There Keyes sparked controversy when he ordered university trustees not to speak with journalists.

The following year, he once again campaigned for Senate, losing to Democrat Barbara Mikulski with only 29 percent of the vote. Keyes was criticized when reports came out that he had paid himself a salary from campaign funds of approximately $8,500 each month, for a total of around $100,000.

Presidential campaigns

Keyes sought the Republican nomination in the 1996 Presidential election. United States Senate Majority Leader and World War II hero Bob Dole of Kansas won most primaries, caucuses and straw polls and faced Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton.

Keyes again campaigned for the Republican nomination in the in the 2000 primaries. He stayed in the race after the early rounds and was invited to join the two remaining major candidates, John McCain and George W. Bush, in a number of nationally televised debates. Many viewers were more impressed by Keyes than McCain or Bush, and commentators on Fox News Channel and MSNBC went as far as declaring Keyes the winner of the debates. FOX News Channel analyst Dick Morris said, "Bush has no place to go but down. Keyes had an original message and it registered." Keyes' popularity grew in some polls, but with limited name recognition, campaign resources and support for his ideas, he constantly trailed both McCain and Bush throughout the race. However, Keyes built an increased national profile, especially among supporters of social conservatism and limited government.

During the Iowa caucus, Michael Moore filled a truck with a portable mosh pit of teenagers with speakers blaring music by the band Rage Against the Machine. Moore offered the endorsement of his television show The Awful Truth to any candidate who would leap into the pit. Encouraged by his daughter and despite objections of his Secret Service detail, Keyes leaped into the pit to bodysurf and traded body slams with one of the teens. Keyes was later criticized by candidate Gary Bauer, who mistakenly called the band "The Machine Rages On," during a primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire for the stunt. Keyes responded that the mosh pit "exemplifies the kind of trust in people that is the heart and soul of the Keyes campaign...and when you trust them, they will in fact hold you up, whether it's in terms of giving help to you when you're falling down or caring for their own children." [1]

Federal election documents and court records showed that Keyes owed $524,169 from his two presidential campaigns, as well as $381 in unpaid state income taxes in Maryland. All charges have been dismissed or settled in 2004 before accepting an invitation by the Illinois Republican Party to run for office in that state.

Media and advocacy

Keyes has done much and varied work as a media commentator and talk show personality. He hosted a syndicated radio show called America's Wake-Up Call: The Alan Keyes Show from Owings Mills, Maryland. He also launched various web-based organizations — notably Renew America [2] and the Declaration Foundation [3], both headquartered in Washington, DC. His show and websites champion conservative issues and causes including opposition to abortion, affirmative action, an increase in the minimum wage, and gay rights, and advocate the replacement of the income tax with a 20-23% national sales tax. Keyes also supports the death penalty, gun rights, school vouchers, stricter drug penalties, and dismantling the Department of Education. Unlike free-trade Republicans, Keyes advocates withdrawal from the NAFTA and GATT treaties. A devout Roman Catholic, Keyes does not believe in the separation of church and state and favors a view that the founding fathers of the United States intended the laws of the country to be based on principles of Christianity.

For 23 weeks he hosted a television talk show, Alan Keyes is Making Sense, on the MSNBC cable news channel, but it failed with poor ratings. It was last broadcast on June 27, 2002.

Keyes has repeatedly spoken in themes of race and racism, often accusing others of racism. In 1987 Keyes accused Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead of racially insulting him and then quit his post there. He has referred to George W. Bush as "Massa Bush" in the 2000 GOP presidential-primary debate and Bush's tax-cut plan as "a discussion between the masters of how well or ill they're going to treat the slaves." Keyes also accused the Republican National Committee of racism in 1992 when they did not give him a prime speaking spot at the Republican National Convention (the RNC later gave him 2 speaking spots). Keyes would again accuse the GOP of racism when they pulled their support for his trailing candidacy for the Senate. He regularly lambastes the media for racism and accused the media of "a blackout to keep the black out" during his 1992 candidacy. During a press conference, when the media was again accused of racial bias, a reporter reminded Keyes of media attention given to African-American Republican J.C. Watts and Keyes snapped back, "The very question is a racist question! You do to me what you did to my ancestors! You ignore my successes, just as you ignored my ancestors' successes!" [4]

U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois

On August 1, 2004, the Illinois Republican Party under the leadership of Judy Baar Topinka notified Keyes of the party's interest in his candidacy for the United States Senate. Just days before, nominee Jack Ryan officially filed documents removing himself from the race against Democrat Barack Obama. Ryan's withdrawal was a result of fallout from the contents of a divorce suit made against him by his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan. Keyes declined to give an answer and opted to consider the invitation with his family before making a decision.

The prospect of a Keyes candidacy was leaked to the press on August 2. Democrats were quick to point out that Keyes placed a mere third place in the 2000 Illinois presidential primary election with nine percent of the vote. In the 1996 Illinois presidential primary election, Keyes placed fourth with four percent of the vote. Some observers contended that some of Keyes' positions could appeal to politically conservative voters in downstate Illinois. Republicans were quick to claim that Obama's support in the polls was "a mile wide and an inch deep," resulting mainly from name recognition after his speech at the Democrat convention, and that Keyes could generate the same name recognition in short order if enough funds were raised.

GOP summit of August 3

On August 3, the Central Committee of the Illinois Republican Party convened a seven-hour summit at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago to interview potential nominees for the race. Over a dozen prospects were represented with the exception of Keyes. Two of the most prominent potential candidates were Kane County businessman James D. Oberweis and White House advisor Andrea Barthwell.

As the meeting adjourned, Topinka told a press conference that "We don't quite have white smoke yet, but we had a very spirited discussion." She announced that two finalists, Keyes and Barthwell, had been chosen. Neither had prior in-state political experience and Keyes was not an Illinois resident. Some Republicans objected strongly to a possible Barthwell candidacy, given a scandal in which she'd been accused of having "engaged in lewd and abusive behavior" against an employee. [5].

GOP summit of August 4

On the morning of August 4, talk radio stations were flooded by calls about the choices. Some expressed frustration that the second place victor in the March primary election, Jim Oberweis, did not receive the nomination; many were unsatisfied with Keyes and Barthwell. Others welcomed the decision and expressed enthusiasm for the candidates. A second meeting was scheduled at the Union League Club for August 4 at the request of Illinois party leaders interested in Keyes' possible nomination. Keyes flew from his Maryland home to Chicago to meet with the Central Committee of the Illinois Republican Party. He was greeted at the club by crowds chanting his name and raising signs that read, "Pro-Life, Pro-Marriage." Keyes told the press, "Well, I have come in response to, I think, a very strong effort on the part of the leadership in the state of Illinois to take advantage of what is a priceless opportunity, a priceless opportunity for the state and for the country that arises from the fact that the Democrats have nominated somebody who is a radical idealogue but who is an articulate spokesman for the positions that have been characteristic of the Democratic platform." [6]

In March 2000, Keyes had denounced Hillary Clinton for campaigning for a United States Senate seat from New York where she had only recently established residence, "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there, so I certainly wouldn't imitate it." However, when asked about the discomfort of some Republicans of his lacking state residency Keyes noted that he still opposed such a move but explained that the party had asked him to run under unusual circumstances created by the original nominee's withdrawal, "I do not take it for granted that it's a good idea to parachute into a state and go into a Senate race, so I think it has to be something where I would be convinced that that's not only consonant with federalism as I understand it, but that it's in the best interest of the state and of the nation and that's what it would have to be." Right-wing pundit Robert Novak defended Keyes against allegations of carpetbagging on the television show Crossfire on August 9, 2003 by asserting that Hillary Clinton was merely an opportunist whereas Keyes is a principled conservative.


Keyes spoke to the Central Committee of the Illinois Republican Party for over ninety minutes behind closed doors. Upon the conclusion of the August 4 summit, they offered Keyes the nomination as their candidate against Barack Obama. Keyes decided to announce whether he would accept the nomination on August 8 after consulting with his family. Keyes said, "I'm deeply honored, of course, and also deeply challenged by the offer that they have made that I should be the nominee of the Republican Party for the Senate of the United States. I also believe that the deep and serious and intense committed deliberations that have been made by the leadership in this party deserve from me also a deep and serious and committed deliberation about what ought to be my response." [7] Speaking about the state Democrats and his possible entrance into the race Keyes said, "I think they have thrown down a gauntlet of national challenge to the Republican Party of the state of Illinois."

On August 8, after worship services, discussions and a reception with party leaders, Keyes formally accepted the nomination among thousands of supporters at a banquet hall, crowds spilling into the parking lot, in Arlington Heights. Keyes entered the hall to the sounds of the Chicago Bulls theme, and promised to wage "a battle like this nation has never seen."

Keyes had an uphill battle, as Obama had broad popularity across the state and has been campaigning for several months in areas generally regarded as the Republican base. Keyes was also heavily criticized for running for Senate in Illinois, a state where he established legal residency in only after he was nominated. The Chicago Tribune sarcastically greeted him in an editorial, saying that "Mr. Keyes may have noticed a large body of water as he flew into O'Hare. That is called Lake Michigan." [8]


Keyes's nomination marked the first U.S. Senate race where the candidates of both major parties were black (both also attended Harvard University).

The Keyes family moved into a townhouse in the south Chicago suburb of Calumet City. Keyes immediately began to build his campaign, taking over the downtown Chicago North Clinton Avenue office of the Jack Ryan organization.

Seventeenth Amendment

During the first two weeks of the campaign, Keyes scheduled major national and local media interviews. His stances on several issues attracted widespread national media attention, in particular when he said that the 17th Constitutional Amendment, providing for the direct election of United States Senators, unfairly diminished the power of state legislatures.


Keyes was also adamant in his characterization of abortion as a "genocide" of black Americans, citing statistics alluding to a decline in the black population of the United States across generations as a result of abortion. He also compared doctors who performed abortions and women who received them to terrorists of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and referred to Obama's stance on abortion to be "the slaveholder's position." [9]

In an interview at his campaign headquarters in Chicago after the convention, Keyes described Obama as a "hard-line, academic, Marxist-socialist" who "voted for infanticide." Keyes also opined that "Christ would not vote for Barack Obama, because Barack Obama has voted to behave in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved."


During the 2004 Republican National Convention, Keyes gave a radio interview where he said that those homosexuals who marry are guilty of "selfish hedonism." When asked if that description included Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, Keyes said, "Of course, she is. That goes by definition. Of course, she is." Keyes' remarks concerned the state party, drawing criticism from Chairwoman Topinka who called the comments "idiotic." Former Governor James R. Thompson had similar sentiments.

In late September, rumors were published by freelance weblogs that caught the attention of newspapers alleging that Maya Keyes, daughter of the candidate, was a lesbian as indicated in a weblog allegedly written by her. The original source of the story noted that he found a link to a weblog [10] he believed to have been written by Maya Keyes through a private weblog [11] published by Maya Keyes' friend and campaign aide Gerald Farinas. Keyes and his family neither confirmed or denied the accusations but however excoriated the press for what he called "scandal-mongering nonsense."

When asked by the Chicago CBS affiliate of the issue Alan Keyes remarked, "You're asking me a personal question, right, in terms of what I'd say to a family member. And that has to be governed by my personal conscience, and my personal conscience is shaped by my faith, and my faith is very clear: That homosexual relationships are sinful and wrong, and I will not facilitate my children, whom I love, in going down a path that, according to my faith, leads to a kind of death that's worse than physical death. You don't love somebody if you become the facilitator of the destruction of their spiritual and moral life."

To the Chicago NBC affiliate Alan Keyes said, "I consider the eternal salvation of my children to be the real aim of my parenting, not how they feel today, not how they look today, but whether or not they shall be pleasing and acceptable to God. You can bet I won't betray that truth for the sake of any ambition, any office, any election on the face of this Earth because I promise to you that the hearts of my children are far more important to me than anything I can achieve in this election or anything else the world has to offer me."

At the end of January 2005, Maya posted [12] on her blog that her parents had cast her out entirely, leaving her unable to pay rent or tuition. A San Francisco-based charity announced plans to pay for her schooling. In February 2005 Maya appeared at a Maryland rally in support of equal marriage rights.

Mandatory service

During the Jim Ryan Symposium on Public Affairs on October 5, Keyes spoke before a crowd of approximately 300 students and faculty in the Dan and Ada Rice Center at Benedictine University. He offered his opinion that he favored requiring students to serve two-years of service to the country after high school — either in the community, diplomatically or militarily. He said, "I have always been in favor of universal service with exceptions."

"Mortal sin" and "wicked and evil" comments

On October 31, two days before the election, Keyes stated that voting for Obama was a "mortal sin" and that he held "the wicked and evil position" when asked about Obama's appearance at a Catholic church. Keyes's statements were made before a crowd of around 600 at Crusader Ministries International Church in Chicago. Keyes said:

"From the point of view of the things I deeply believe in to be right and necessary, Barack Obama is wrong and taking the wicked and evil position on every single one of them.
"And I would simply say to voters of faith and conscience—the Roman Catholics, the black Christians, the evangelicals—I don't see how anyone in good conscience can cast a vote for Barack Obama."
"...On all the key issues of conscience, he stands for the position that has been identified by the Catholic Church as objectively evil...Catholics who vote for him make themselves part of that evil, just as the folks in Germany who voted for the party that eventually led to the Holocaust." [13]

Obama later told reporters that he had "no response to Mr. Keyes' apocalyptic, over-the-top statements...I think everyone's gotten accustomed to them." He also described Keyes's remarks as "histrionics," saying:

"That's sort of his schtick, and I don't think it's playing particularly well here in Illinois, and I suspect that after Tuesday [Election Day] he'll be taking his show on the road...At least, he didn't call me the Antichrist."[14]

2004 U.S. Senate Race Results

The Keyes-Obama race was one of the first to be called on Election Day, which in 2004 was November 2. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the results were:

2004 Election Results
Name Party Votes Percentage
Barack Obama Democratic 3,524,702 70
Alan Keyes Republican 1,371,882 27
Albert J. Franzen Independent 79,481 2
Jerry Kohn Libertarian 67,914 1

Keyes refused to call and congratulate Obama, as is election custom. Two days after his crushing loss, in a radio interview Keyes conceded defeat but said he would never congratulate Obama, because he said the Democrat stood for "a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country."


Michael Lewis has noted on several occasions that Keyes has disproportionate "flipper feet", size 11 and a half AAA.

Further reading

  • Masters of the Dream: The Strength and Betrayal of Black America by Alan Keyes, William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1994.
  • Our Character, Our Future by Alan Keyes, Zondervan, 1996.
  • While I Was Waiting at Gate 18 by Alan Keyes, W Publishing Group, 2000.

External links

Last updated: 05-22-2005 04:23:37