Lyndon LaRouche, the quixotic, apocalyptic leader of a cultlike political organization who ran for president eight times, once from a prison cell, died on Tuesday. He was 96.
His death was announced on the website of his organization, La Rouche/Pac. The statement did not specify a cause or say where he died.
Defining what Mr. LaRouche stood for was no easy task. He began his political career on the far left and ended it on the far right. He said he admired Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan and loathed Hitler, the composer Richard Wagner and other anti-Semites, though he himself made anti-Semitic statements.
He was fascinated with physics and mathematics, particularly geometry, but called concerns about climate change “a scientific fraud.”
He condemned modern music as a tool of invidious conspiracies — he saw rock as a particularly British one — and found universal organizing principles in the music of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart.
Some called him a case study in paranoia and bigotry, his mild demeanor notwithstanding. One biographer, Dennis King, in “Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism” (1989), maintained that Mr. LaRouche and his followers were a danger to democratic institutions.
Mr. LaRouche denigrated a panoply of ethnic groups and organized religions. He railed against the “Eastern Establishment” and environmentalists, who he said were trying to wipe out the human race. Queen Elizabeth II of England was plotting to have him killed, he said. Jews had surreptitiously founded the Ku Klux Klan, he said. He described Native Americans as “lower beasts.”
Even so, Mr. LaRouche was able to develop alliances with farmers, the Nation of Islam, teamsters, abortion opponents and Klan adherents. Acolytes kept Mr. LaRouche’s political machine going by peddling his tracts and magazines in airports, and by persuading relatives and friends to donate large sums to help him fight his designated enemies.
He operated through a dizzying array of front groups, among them the National Democratic Policy Committee, through which he received millions of dollars in federal matching money in his recurring presidential campaigns. His forces also sponsored candidates at the state and local levels, including for school board seats.
His movement attracted national attention, especially in 1986, when two LaRouche followers, Mark Fairchild and Janice Hart, unexpectedly won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor and secretary of state, respectively, in Illinois.
Adlai E. Stevenson III, the Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois that year, was appalled. He denounced the LaRouche group as “neo-Nazis” and refused to run with Mr. Fairchild and Ms. Hart, organizing a third-party bid instead. He, as well as the LaRouche supporters, lost to James R. Thompson, the Republican incumbent.
Some voters said they had voted for Mr. Fairchild and Ms. Hart because they had been endorsed by Mr. LaRouche’s National Democratic Policy Committee, which they thought was affiliated with the mainstream Democratic Party.
Critics of Mr. LaRouche said he had used that committee to deceive people abroad as well. In 1982, he managed to arrange a meeting with President José López Portillo of Mexico, evidently because Mexican officials thought Mr. LaRouche represented the Democratic Party.
“I’m as American as apple pie,” Mr. LaRouche once said.
LaRouche Discusses the 9/11 Attack As It Unfolds
(The following interview was conducted on September 11, 2001, between Jack Stockwell, morning radio host on K-TALK radio in Salt Lake City, Utah, and 2004 Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche. It was on the air from 7:15 to 9:00 A.M., Mountain Daylight Time.)