NEW YORK – Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly confirmed to WND that six board members of her group Eagle Forum have called a special meeting Monday that she believes is an attempt to remove her as CEO and board chairman because of her support for Donald Trump's campaign for the White House.
“This may be my Dobson moment,” Schlafly told WND, referring to allegations that James Dobson was pushed out of the organization he founded, Focus on the Family.
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“The six board members calling today’s telephone meeting won’t tell me what the meeting is about, but I think it’s an attempt to vote me out,” Schlafly said. “It’s disloyal and it’s terribly shocking, and I’m completely depressed about it.
“I may be one vote short to win today,” she conceded.
The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Central Time.
Asked for reaction to the development, Trump gave a brief statement to WND through his campaign staff.
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"Phyllis is one of the most respected conservative leaders in the country, who helped form the conservative movement, and I am incredibly grateful for her continued support," Trump said.
Along with her support of Trump, her six opponents on the board have cited her opposition to the so-called “Con-Con Movement,” a push to get 34 states to vote for an Article V constitutional convention with the aim of adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“I think the Con-Con issue is really diversionary,” she said. “I’ve always been against Con-Con, from the very first the time the idea was raised. Everybody knows that.”
Schlafly said the board meeting was called by only three members, and Eagle Forum lawyers are arguing that three members are not enough, according to the by-laws, to call a meeting of the board.
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“This is a complete takeover attempt,” she said.
“I think the leader of the coup is my daughter Anne Cori and her husband at Eagle Forum of Missouri,” Schlafly said. “I think she and her husband want to take over the organization.”
Her son John Schlafly, the treasurer of Eagle Forum and a board member, explained to WND that among the six board members calling the meeting are several "who feel Donald Trump is unacceptable as the GOP presidential candidate in 2016."
Phyllis Schlafly endorsed Trump March 11.
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Her son explained that she believed Trump had the best chance to win the 1,237 delegates needed to avoid an open convention, which she fears "could be a catastrophe."
“Based on that situation, Phyllis thought it was time to get the best deal with Donald Trump for her endorsement, and she succeeded in getting Trump to agree to nominate conservative judges to the Supreme Court," he said.
“She also got Trump to defend the GOP platform that Phyllis has worked so hard to develop for all these years,” he noted,
She was on the GOP platform committee again in 2012.
“Every year at the GOP convention there’s a platform fight from liberals within the party that want to pull out key conservative planks, and Phyllis won Trump’s support to maintain a conservative GOP platform this year," John Schlafly said.
He explained to WND that Monday's vote is regarding the 501(c)4, educationally oriented non-profit organization of Eagle Forum, not the 501(c)3 organization that allows it to support political issue campaigns.
“The two organizations have different boards,” John explained, “and those opposing Phyllis only have a majority in the 501(c)4.”
But the problem is that the 501(c)4 controls the name Eagle Forum, meaning the future of the organization will be uncertain if the 501(c)4 ousts Phyllis Schlafly as its chairperson and CEO.
Phyllis Schlafly began criticizing the Con-Con movement in 1984 as playing a game of Russian roulette with the U.S. Constitution. She argued that as desirable as a balanced budget amendment might be, there was no guarantee it could be achieved, and liberals could take over the constitutional convention with unintended consequences, including pursuing their own agenda to repeal the Second Amendment.
Endorsement 'a disappointment'
In March, Cathie Adams, one of the dissident board members, gave an interview to the Dallas Morning News critical of Schlafly's endorsement of Trump.
She had served as the president of Texas Eagle Forum for the past 23 years before stepping down this year to run for the vice chair of the Texas Republican Party.
Days after the endorsement, Adams told the paper regarding Trump, "We have no respect for that man."
Adams appeared to argue Schlafly’s endorsement reflected her advanced age and what Adams argued was increasing detachment from the grassroots of the Eagle Forum organization.
Adams called Schlafly’s endorsement a disappointment, citing statements by Cruz that Trump is taking advantage of supporters, including 91-year-old Schlafly, by making promises he can’t keep.
“[Schlafly’s endorsement] is going to be widely dismissed,” Adams told the newspaper. “At 91, it is just totally unfair to impose upon someone who has such a beautiful legacy. … I think this was very much a manipulation. When you’re 91 and you’re not out with the grass roots all the time, it is very much taking advantage of someone.
“If we were going to be asking Ted Cruz about the platform, he would be able to give us a wonderful dissertation on each one of those plans,” Adams told the Dallas paper. “That is the caliber of the man. Where with Donald Trump he says he going to bully people, negotiate with people, he’s going to have good people around him. That’s it. And that is going to make America great? Really?”
Adams went on to argue Schlafly had little support within Eagle Forum for her endorsement of Trump.
“The eagles will speak at the polls,” Adams insisted in the interview. ”The majority of leaders across the country are Ted Cruz supporters. I am one of those. I still think he is the only person that can beat Hillary Clinton. … We love and respect her, but we disagree.”
After the interview, Schlafly withdrew her endorsement of Adams’ candidacy for vice chair of the Texas GOP.
“Cathie gave this very disparaging interview to the press,” Phyllis explained to WND. “It was a very offensive interview about me. She finally called to apologize, but she didn’t retract anything she told the Dallas Morning News.”
Schlafly maintained that Cathie was one of the “ringleaders” of the six dissident board members seeking her ouster.
Adams, in an interview with WND, denied her goal was to take over the organization or remove Schlafly from heading the organization she founded.
“The six board members calling the meeting are among the most loyal to Phyllis,” Adams insisted. “Together we have over 200 years combined service to Eagle Forum among the six of us.”
Adams said the six disgruntled board members were angry at the management style of Ed Martin, a social conservative from Missouri who has served as a member of the Republican National Committee.
In August 2015, Schlafly named Martin to take over her day-to-day duties as president of Eagle Forum, elevating her to the role of chairperson and CEO of the organization.
Adams objected that Martin had sent out an email to all Eagle Forum members noting the opposition of the six board members, listing their personal telephone numbers and email addresses.
“For 30 years, Phyllis Schlafly has been my mentor,” Adams repeated. “I have never given a speech critical of Phyllis Schlafly. I adore her. I gave an interview to the Dallas Morning News and the spin – and someone told Phyllis that I was criticizing her.
“Who’s being manipulative? “ Adams asked rhetorically. “I’m not confident in Donald Trump’s character. That’s no secret. But I think Ed Martin twisted my statement to the newspaper when he told Phyllis about it.”
Adams said there were "many options on the table" for the board meeting Monday.
“Ousting Phyllis is a possibility," she said. "I don’t want to forecast what’s going to happen in a meeting that hasn’t been held, but among the issues on the table is Ed Martin’s character and his management style.
“The board meeting today was called to discuss the future of Eagle Forum,” she explained. “But it is unconscionable to think we’ve called the meeting to replace Phyllis. It was very different when Phyllis was doing everything, including finances, and we all trusted her without question. But now there’s other people involved and it’s only wisdom on the part of the board to hold a meeting and check.”
WND asked if the purpose of the six in calling the board meeting was to fire Martin.
“Nobody knows at this point exactly how this board meeting is going to decide,” Adams said. “This is not something anybody has an answer to. We don’t know how the board will decide until the meeting is held.”
Still, Adams insisted it was “weird thinking” to imagine the board meeting today would call for Phyllis to be ousted from the management of Eagle Forum.
Ed Martin: Board members tried to force my absence
Martin told WND, “We don’t really know what the meeting is about because the six board members calling the meeting have not given us an agenda.
“Phyllis told me that at one time the six board members were talking about bringing in outsiders to monitor how we do things,” he continued. “Another time it was about Phyllis’ personnel decisions. I guess that could be about me. I just don’t know.”
Martin explained to WND that under the by-laws of the Eagle Forum 501(c)4 organization, he as president is supposed to preside over all board meetings.
“These six board members have hired outside lawyers, and they are now saying that I am not allowed to attend the meeting, which is a violation of the by-laws as well as my rights as president,” he said. “Over and over, Phyllis has pointed out to these six board members that the board endorsed me being hired and I need to preside the board meeting.”
Martin said the six board members wrote him an email saying he was not welcome on the call.
"I told them I was president and they could not force my absence, yet they have insisted I cannot attend today’s board meeting," he said.
“It’s a very strange situation, but I can say that Phyllis’ assessment that it is a hostile meeting is accurate,” Martin said. “The email that went out Saturday to the Eagle Forum members was designed to communicate that these six board members were taking steps hostile to her management of the organization. We asked for the members to communicate directly to these six.
“Phyllis read my email and she approved it going out,” he said. “Phyllis told me, ‘We have to defend ourselves, so let’s go.’ And I sent out the email with her approval. Phyllis is not going to sit back and let people take away what she’s built.
“When people don’t return your phone calls or give you a straight answer about what they’re doing, Phyllis knows enough to recognize that’s pretty hostile,” he emphasized.
WND asked if Phyllis’ endorsement of Trump was the root cause of the upset.
“We don’t know what the motivation of these six board members are because they haven’t said,” he answered.
Martin cited an instance win which an Eagle Forum member who was also working for Cruz took a membership list and gave it to the Cruz campaign for marketing.
“The Cruz campaign backed off using the list,” he said. “But we have had a few incidents and the Eagle Forum members who have endorsed Cruz are not happy with Phyllis’ endorsement of Trump.”
Martin confirmed that Phyllis had rescinded her endorsement of Cathie Adams to be vice chair of the Texas GOP after Adams' interview with the Dallas Morning News.