Alan Keyes

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Alan Keyes is a former American diplomat and was a Republican presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000.

Dr. Alan Lee Keyes (born August 7, 1950) is an American politician and diplomat and considered an influential conservative African American. He is a member of the Republican Party, a radio talk show host and a frequent candidate for public office. He lives with his family in Montgomery County, Maryland. 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

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Keyes is married to Jocelyn Marcel Keyes; they have three children: Francis, Andrew, Maya.

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. 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. Keyes and his family were staunch supporters of the war in Vietnam, where his father served two tours of duty.[1] ( Keyes was criticized by those who opposed the war in Vietnam, but he says he was supporting his father and his brothers, who were also fighting in that war.[2] (

Keyes has said his favorite professor at Cornell and Harvard was the political philosophy professor Allan Bloom. A passage of Bloom's best-selling book, "The Closing of the American Mind,"[3] ( (Simon & Schuster, 1987) refers to an African American student "whose life had been threatened by a black faculty member when the student refused to participate in a demonstration" at Cornell. (Ibid., p 316) That student was Alan Keyes.

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.


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Keyes hosted conservative talk-radio on America's Wake-Up Call: The Alan Keyes Show.

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 related to United Nations funding. Keyes today continues to critique UN activities and policies.

During Ronald Reagan's presidency, from 1981 to 1987, Keyes was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and later served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations. Keyes was was one of the youngest ever to serve in these posts.[4] (

Ambassador Kirkpatrick has described Keyes as "very articulate about international affairs," and said this asset was "very useful to the U.S." in representing the U.S. policy, "above all President Reagan's policy."[5] (

Following government service, Ambassador Keyes was President of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) from 1989 to 1991, and founded CAGW's National Taxpayers' Action Day. In 1991, He served as Interim President of Alabama A&M University, in Huntsville, Alabama.[6] (

U.S. Senate campaigns in Maryland

After resigning from his diplomatic post, Keyes was drafted by the Maryland Republican party to run for the United States Senate 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

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Keyes debated Senator John McCain and Governor George W. Bush on national television in 2000.

Keyes sought the Republican nomination in the 1996 Presidential election. United States Senate Majority Leader and World War II veteran 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 media exposure, 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." [7] (

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

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A staunch supporter of religion's role in governance, Keyes supported the display of the Ten Commandments at the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003.

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 [8] ( and the Declaration Foundation [9] (, 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 believes that the founding fathers of the United States intended the laws of the country to be based on principles of Christianity and has strongly opposed Court rulings in the latter half of the 20th century interpreting the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution that established the modern version of separation of church and state.

For 23 weeks he hosted a television talk show, Alan Keyes is Making Sense, on the MSNBC cable news channel.[10] ( The network cited poor ratings as the reason for the show's demise. Others pointed to pressure by outside groups, such as GLAAD and the Palestinian lobby, as contributing to the show's premature end.[11] ([12] ([13] (

The show frequently challenged apologists of the al-Aqsa Intifadah, and defended the right of Israel to exist and guard itself against attacks by suicide bombers.[14] ( It featured critical discussion of homosexuality and of priests accused in the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandals. The last episode was broadcast on June 27, 2002. In its brief run, Making Sense received ratings comparable to MSNBC's Scarborough Country, the eventual successor to the Keyes show. (Source: Nielsen Media Research cable news ratings, 2002-2005)

In the midst of the show's cancellation, Keyes was awarded for integrity in reporting by the government of Israel, in appreciation for his reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[15] ( The award was unprecedented.

Racial commentary

Keyes has repeatedly spoken in an unconventional manner on racism and slavery.

He referred to George W. Bush as "Massa Bush" in the 2000 GOP presidential-primary debate, as a metaphor for the injustices of the income tax, and characterized Bush's tax-cut plan as "a discussion between the masters of how well or ill they're going to treat the slaves." Keyes said, "I usually use 'Massa Government' in that context, because the income tax is a system where we surrender control of our resources to politicians and to government, and then they decide how much of our own money we should keep."[16] (

In 1987 Keyes reportedly accused Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead of racially insulting him and then quit his post there. Media reports also claimed Keyes accused the Republican National Committee of racism in 1992 when the GOP did not give him a prime speaking spot at the Republican National Convention (the RNC later gave him 2 speaking spots). Keyes would apparently again accuse the GOP of racism when they pulled their support for his trailing candidacy for the Senate in Maryland.

Keyes has also at times lambasted the media for racism and accused the media of "a blackout to keep the black out." During his presidential campaigns, Keyes complained that questions by the press were too frequently limited to "racial questions," and said he felt a bias in the media against black conservatives.[17] (

In a December 1999 interview, Keyes said, "I don't correspond to the stereotype, so they're pushing me out. A conservative black American is somebody who simply doesn't correspond to what the media believes black people ought to be."[18] (

During a press conference, a reporter asked Keyes to explain his accusations of racial bias when media attention was being given to African-American Republican J.C. Watts. Keyes responded, "The very question is a racist question!" He explained, "Several years ago, I would go into forums just like this. I would talk about the issues: the moral challenges we face, the issue of abortion, and so forth. I would get out and the first question asked of me by reporters would be a racial question. You guys can't see anything but my race. I refuse to play the role of a racial politician."[19] ( [20] (

U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois

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Keyes arrived in Chicago on August 4, 2004 for a meeting requested by Illinois Republicans to consider his nomination.

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 a California Court ordering the release of sealed divorce files and resulting fallout from previous accusations 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 Democratic 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 resided in Maryland, not Illinois. 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. [21] (

GOP summit of August 4

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Keyes and retiring United States Senator Peter Fitzgerald greeted each other at a private reception minutes before the formal nomination acceptance rally on August 8, 2004.

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 ideologue but who is an articulate spokesman for the positions that have been characteristic of the Democratic platform." [22] (

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.


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Alan Keyes accepted the Republican nomination on August 8, 2004 in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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." [23] ( 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 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." [24] (,1,4590778.story)


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2004 campaign logo

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"[25] ( of black Americans, citing statistics alluding to a decline in the black population of the United States across generations as a result of abortion, and the fact that abortion is performed statistically most often on black women.[26] (

Continuing the theme of abortion during his campaign, Keyes pointed to parallels between abortion and terrorism. Said Keyes: "What distinguishes the terrorist from the ordinary warrior, is that the terrorist will consciously target innocent human life. What is done in the course of an abortion? . . . Someone consciously targets innocent human life."

An Aug. 17 Chicago Sun-Times article interpreted this statement as comparing doctors who performed abortions and women who received them to terrorists of the September 11, 2001 attacks. On a radio program, Keyes responded that this was a mischaracterization. He said he "never spoke of the women who have abortions or the physicians," and that his comment was instead directed toward the objectives behind abortion and terrorism. He explained his position was that the women "are themselves the victims" of an abortion industry that "gain[s] from the crisis of the woman and the death of the child." [27] (

Keyes frequently made his opponent the target of his anti-abortion rhetoric. At one point, Keyes raised eyebrows by referring to Obama's stance on abortion as "the slaveholder|slaveholder's position." [28] ( Keyes explained that he felt Obama denies the principle that had abolished slavery, "when he withdraws respect from the life of unborn human beings in the womb." [29] (

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" because he had rejected the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.[30] ( 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."[31] (

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, headlines across the country reported Keyes as saying that to vote 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' 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." [32] (

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."[33] (

Media reports failed to clarify that Keyes was discussing the policy of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church states that it is a "mortal sin" for a person to support the legalization of abortion. Similarly, Catholics are required to vote for the politician in any given election who favors the most restrictions on abortion.[34] (

In the Keyes-Obama race, Catholic voters had a clear mandate to support Keyes over Obama.

As Obama courted Catholic voters, Keyes reminded them of that specific church policy, which also holds that abortion is "evil" and allows no "diversity of opinion" on this point within the church.[35] (

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

A late entry in the race against media favorite Obama, Keyes failed to play catch-up to the popular Democrat. At the start of Keyes' candidacy in August, Keyes had 24% support in the polls. Polls taken prior to Keyes entering in the race had already predicted a landside victory for Obama, regardless of who his opponent was.

Following the election, Keyes refused to call and congratulate Obama, as is election custom. Media reports claimed that Keyes also failed to concede the race to Obama.

Two days after the election, a radio interviewer asked Keyes whether he had conceded the race. Keyes replied, "Of course I've conceded the race. I mean, I gave my speech to that effect."[36] ( (The night of the election, television stations had aired live coverage of the Keyes concession speech.)[37] (

On the radio program, Keyes explained that his refusal to congratulate Obama was "not anything personal," but was meant to make a statement against "extend[ing] false congratulations to the triumph of what we have declared to be across the line."

He said the Obama's position on moral issues regarding life and the family had crossed that line.

"I'm supposed to make a call that represents the congratulations toward the triumph of that which I believe ultimately stands for ... a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country? I can't do this. And I will not make a false gesture," Keyes said.[38] (


WGN News at 9 reports that Keyes is "a trained opera singer ("

Further reading

  • Masters of the Dream: The Strength and Betrayal of Black America ( by Alan Keyes, William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1994. ISBN 0688095992
  • Our Character, Our Future ( by Alan Keyes, Zondervan, 1996. ISBN 0310208165
  • The Jerusalem Alternative: Moral Clarity for Ending the Arab-Israeli Conflict ( by Dmitry Radyshevsky (Editor), Jenny Grigg (Editor), 2004. ISBN 0892215925 Contains speeches from the inaugural Jerusalem Summit, featuring: Richard Perle, Benjamin Netanyahu, Alan Keyes, Daniel Pipes, and other leading intellectual and political leaders.
  • Leadership Defined: In-Depth Interviews with America's Top Leadership Experts ( by Richard Tyler, Alexander M. Haig, Warren Bennis, Alan Keyes, 2004. ISBN 1932863109
  • Judicial Tyranny ( by Mark Sutherland, William J. Federer, Dave Meyer, 2005. ISBN 0975345567 Featured in this ground breaking book is the insight of Mark Sutherland, US Attorney General Ed Meese, Ambassador Alan Keyes, Dave Meyer, Phyllis Schlafly, the Honorable Howard Phillips, Alan Sears, William Federer, Ben DuPre, Rev. Rick Scarborough, David Gibbs, Mathew Staver, Don Feder and Herb Titus.

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