Dan Corkery | From our readers, including Michael B. Hari

Dan Corkery | From our readers, including Michael B. Hari

As the past week's stories by Ford County Record Editor Will Brumleve show, Michael B. Hari was not shy about talking with the press.

Hari is among four men from Clarence, a small town in southeastern Ford County, who were accused last week of possessing machine guns.

Further, the U.S. attorney's office has connected three of the four — Hari, 47; Michael McWhorter, 29; and Joe Morris, 22 — to the bombing of a Minnesota mosque on Aug. 5, 2017, and the failed bombing of the Women's Health Practice in Champaign on Nov. 7, 2017.

Hari, who remains in custody, has left a trail of news stories the last 21 years as he put his political philosophy into action.

Motivated by the government's deadly 1993 siege in Waco, Texas, Hari began pumping life into the Ford County Libertarian Party in 1997. His goal: to take on the "tax-and-spend" Republicans.

"Basically, Libertarianism stands for smaller government, cutting taxes, personal liberties," he told former News-Gazette reporter J. Philip Bloomer in 1997. "That's what I'm for."

Not only did Hari express his political views to reporters, he also shared his opinions with News-Gazette readers by writing letters to the editor.

In 1996, for example, he railed against Champaign County's then-director of planning and zoning, who would not permit a property owner to have both a church and a school operating on his land northeast of Urbana.

"Americans have the right to assemble peaceably and worship as we please without government permission," Hari wrote in his June 9, 1996, letter. "And if part of the ministry of their church is to educate their children as they see fit, they don't need the government's blessing for that either."

Two decades later, it appears his views on freedom to worship changed. According to the government's criminal complaint filed last Monday, "WcWhorter said they did not intend to kill anyone, but they wanted to 'scare them out of the country' (referring to Muslims), because they push their beliefs on everyone else."

In his July 27, 1999, letter ("Why special treatment for the crash victims?"), Hari expressed his contempt for the Kennedys, especially Ted and John Jr., who had died in a plane crash earlier that month.

"The question goes unasked in the press: What service has he done that he should have a hero's burial?

"The answer, of course, is none. The reason is that he is a member of a privileged family. The reason the press isn't asking questions is the same reason the Massachusetts State Police scurried to cover up Sen. Ted Kennedy's wrongdoing at Chappaquiddick."

Perhaps he was counting not being among America's privileged, which would set off a massive manhunt, when in 2005 he abducted his two daughters, traveling to Minnesota, Canada, Mexico and eventually Belize — where they were illegal immigrants without passports. It took the privileged Phil McGraw (television's "Dr. Phil") to hire an investigator, who tracked down Hari and his daughters a year later.

In 2016, Hari took exception to a guest commentary by history writer Tom Emery about Illinois' role in the Dred Scott case.

"Tom Emery's article contributes to the mythology in which Northern states were pro-black, Southern states were racist and Abraham Lincoln was a benevolent emancipator who led a crusade against Southern slavery," he wrote. "The truth is more much complex."

Given that Dred Scott is regarded by many as the Supreme Court's worst decision, Hari's letter also draws a vile connection between freedom and slavery.

"The Dred Scott decision was a libertarian decision. U.S. citizens could lawfully carry their property into any state, regardless of local law," he wrote. "This decision would permit Texans to carry their assault rifles into California and Coloradans to carry their recreational marijuana into Illinois.

"Misrepresenting our history with regard to slavery makes villains and heroes out of ordinary people who merely held the values of their times."

Dan Corkery is a member of The News-Gazette's editorial board. His email is dcorkery@news-gazette.com, and his phone is 351-5218.