LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — Lyndon LaRouche Jr., the political extremist who ran for president in every election from 1976 to 2004, including a campaign waged from federal prison, has died. He was 96.
LaRouche's political action committee confirmed Wednesday on its website that LaRouche died a day earlier.
The cult-like figure, who espoused a wide range of conspiracy theories and advocated for an overhaul of the world's economic and financial systems, ran first as a U. S. Labor Party candidate and later, after an apparent shift to the right, as a Democratic or independent candidate.
In 1986, LaRouche described himself as being in the tradition of the American Whig party, a forerunner of the Republican Party in the first half of the 19th century. In 1990, he ran unsuccessfully to represent Virginia in Congress.
His views evolved throughout his life, but a central tenet of his apocalyptic platform warned of an inevitable global downward slide into crisis.
His PAC described him as a "philosopher, scientist, poet, statesman" who died on the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, whom he celebrated in his writings.
"Those who knew and loved Lyndon LaRouche know that humanity has suffered a great loss, and today we dedicate ourselves anew to bring to reality the big ideas for which history will honor him," the organization said in a statement posted online.
LaRouche grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, taking the name "Lyn Marcus."
He ran his 1992 campaign from a prison cell after a 1988 conviction for mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS by defaulting on more than $30 million in loans from campaign supporters. During a 1984 libel trial, LaRouche said he had no income and had filed no tax returns for 12 years. He said he did not know who paid his bills.
His conspiracy theories included a claim that the International Monetary Fund was "engaged in mass murder" by spreading AIDS through its economic policies, that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Vice President Walter Mondale were Soviet "agents of influence" and that the Queen of England was involved in the drug trade. He said former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos "was opposed to me and he fell as a result."
LaRouche called for a quarantine of AIDS victims and said most medical warnings about how the disease was spread were lies. He also referred to Zionism as "cult nonsense" and said the Holocaust was "mythical."
The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith once characterized LaRouche's organization as an anti-Semitic political cult.
After his conviction, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released in 1994.
Based outside Washington in Leesburg, Virginia, LaRouche's organization continued to operate during the years he was in prison. His followers could be found at major airports, where they distributed publications and tried to raise money.
The commitment of LaRouche followers reportedly inspired some people to hire so-called “deprogrammers” to kidnap his devotees to stop them from giving him their fortunes. One high-profile case involved a supposed conspiracy to kidnap DuPont heir Lewis duPont Smith and his wife to deprogram them. In 1992, a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, acquitted Smith’s father, E. Newbold Smith, and three other men.