WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of a white supremacist group, cited by the suspected gunman who killed nine people at a black South Carolina church last week, has given thousands of dollars to several 2016 Republican presidential candidates, according to media reports.
Earl Holt III of Texas, leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens, has donated a total of $65,000 to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, among other politicians in recent years, the Guardian reported late on Sunday.
The New York Times also reported the donations on Monday.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports.
According to the Guardian, Holt also donated to campaigns for other Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Representative Steve King of Iowa, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He has donated to former Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, it said.
Representatives for Cruz told the papers that his campaign would immediately return the $8,500 given by Holt.
Representatives for Paul did not respond to the newspapers' request for comment, while a Santorum spokesman told the Guardian the candidate does not condone racism but did not address the donated funds.
According to the media reports, records show Holt, 62, lists himself as president of the group, which the suspect in the South Carolina shooting, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who is white, reportedly cites in a racist manifesto he appears to have written and that surfaced over the weekend.
Reuters could not immediately confirm who created the website with the manifesto or the authenticity of the photographs posted on it. The FBI has said it is investigating the website.
In a statement on Sunday, Holt said he was not surprised that his group helped inform Roof but that it was "hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual," according to the newspapers. The group, on its website, has said it was saddened by the South Carolina shootings.
The Missouri-based Council of Conservative Citizens advocates "whites rights" and believes "the United States is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people." It opposes integration and so-called race-mixing and calls for the halt of immigration, according to its website.
The organization has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist group that has called blacks "a retrograde species of humanity."
(Reporting by Washington Newsroom; Editing by Bernadette Baum)