ST. LOUIS (AP) — Longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has led to internal strife — and what she claims was an attempt to oust her — at the organization she formed nearly a half-century ago to help defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.
The 91-year-old said six of the Eagle Forum’s 11 board members, including one of her daughters, met improperly by telephone Monday “to wrest control of the organization from me” and “seize access to our bank accounts.” She said in a statement she was kicked off the call when she objected.
Eagle Forum board member Cathie Adams, who was among those who convened the meeting, said there was no attempt to overthrow Schlafly and they still support her. She says they voted to fire the group’s president who in turn says he’s still on the job.
Schlafly had endorsed Trump in early March and introduced the GOP front-runner at a St. Louis rally. Eagle Forum president Ed Martin told The Associated Press the endorsement is partially behind the organization’s recent strife. That was echoed in other interviews given by Eagle Forum treasurer John Schlafly, Phyllis Schlafly’s son and one of the five board members who didn’t participate in the call.
Soon after Schlafly announced her support for Trump, Adams told the Dallas Morning News that “it is just totally unfair to impose upon someone who has such a beautiful legacy,” and called the endorsement a “manipulation” of an elderly conservative icon.
Adams, a former chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party who supports home state Sen. Ted Cruz as the GOP’s presidential nominee, told The AP on Tuesday “there was absolutely never, ever any attempt to oust Phyllis Schlafly” from the organization Schlafly had founded in 1972. Adams blamed Martin, a former Missouri Republican Party chairman, for manipulating Schlafly.
“This is Ed Martin hiding behind Phyllis Schlafly and trying to put her up to save his job,” Adams said. “He’s just out there making noise because he doesn’t want to leave.”
Anne Cori, Schlafly’s daughter who was on the call, said the Eagle Forum board voted to fire Martin as president and appointed another board member to take his place. Cori also insisted that Martin is the source of the turmoil, not her mother’s vocal support of the anti-establishment Trump.
“He’s 100 percent the problem,” said Cori, who was named the Eagle Forum’s executive director Monday.
Martin, who referred to himself as Schlafly’s “hand-picked successor” said Tuesday he remains “happily at work.”
Schlafly rose to national attention in 1964 with her self-published book, “A Choice Not an Echo,” which is credited with helping conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona win the GOP nomination.
The Eagle Forum, which she founded in the St. Louis suburbs where she still lives, was a leader in the effort to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment that would have outlawed gender discrimination. Schlafly’s known for her opposition to abortion, gay marriage and immigration reform.
She was greeted warmly at the March 11 Trump rally, where Martin stood by her side at the podium.
“This year we have a candidate who really will give us a choice, not an echo,” she said, invoking her book’s title.