In early July, I started a Twitter experiment: Every time I came across an instance of convergence between the white supremacist movement and the Republican Party, I would tweet the link, always appending it with the phrase, “Weird that this keeps happening, right?”
My collection has stretched to include 61 stories. Because President Donald Trump gets plenty of attention for this already, this list excludes statements and policies coming from him.
I’ve catalogued 33 incidents of sitting GOP officials embracing white supremacists, nine cases of GOP officials spouting rhetoric echoing that of white supremacists, nine incidents of white supremacists running for elected office as Republicans and 10 cases of avowed white supremacists expressing strong support for Republican officials or the party’s agenda.
It began as a bit of a joke – a rhetorical tweaking of the nose of the political party that, with Trump’s rise, seemed to be dipping into white nationalist rhetoric with increasing frequency. But as the thread grew, the humor quickly faded – news stories about GOP officials palling around with open white supremacists or engaging in rhetoric that wouldn’t seem out of place on a neo-Nazi web forum appeared on a near-daily basis.
The recent arrest of an alleged mail bomber in Florida and a massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh illustrate how this hateful rhetoric can manifest itself in on-the-ground violence against the antagonists of white supremacist rage.
Corey Stewart, a Republican who lost the Virginia Senate race last week, not only had a staffer participate in an online chat room for white supremacists, but also reportedly hired an apparent Nazi sympathizer to organize one of his official campaign events.
Trump’s top economic adviser invited one the country’s most well-known white nationalists to his personal birthday party. The chairman of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party was part of a physical attack on a Democratic campaign office with a chapter of an alt-right fight club — the Proud Boys — led by someone who participated in last year’s white supremacist Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia.
While the party has been quick to speak out against people with little political power – racist oddballs running for office while wrapping themselves in the GOP banner or swastika-clad identitarians marching in the streets – officials have been loath to slap down powerful figures whose fates are meaningfully tied to the party’s future.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost his campaign for governor last week, can approvingly quote a Holocaust-denying white nationalist on his campaign website. Iowa Rep. Steve King can openly preach white nationalism in an interview with a far-right Austrian news site, just one instance in a flurry of news about his white supremacist views, and cruise to re-election victory.
When we specifically asked the Republican National Committee about King’s rhetoric last month, we were met with silence. This is all happening as the hate movement tries to execute one of its fundamental goals: joining arms with the Republican Party.
Shortly after Unite the Right, I spent a few weeks reading leaked chat logs of the event’s neo-Nazi organizers. In the thousands of pages, the group’s true hopes for the event emerged.
The organizers’ goal was to draw the country’s eyes to the streets of Charlottesville and convince everyday, conservative Trump voters that white nationalism wasn’t all that far from what they already believed. They wanted to equate white nationalism with Make America Great Again hats and NRA membership cards. They wanted to be viewed, as Trump himself dubbed some of them, as “very fine people.”
The permissiveness of some in the party to welcome this fringe element with open arms, or to pepper their rhetoric with echoes of white nationalist talking points, shows there’s been a considerable degree of success.
This is not to say that white nationalism and the Republican Party have become one and the same.
When I spoke to California GOP officials about Patrick Little, a neo-Nazi who mounted an unsuccessful long-shot campaign for a Senate seat on the GOP ticket, they could not have been more forceful in their condemnation. The party toed a similar line with Arthur Jones, a KKK organizer who won an uncontested GOP congressional primary in Illinois, urging its supporters not to cast a ballot for him under any circumstances.
Similarly, representatives from the Republican National Committee, which did not respond to a request for comment, put out a statement attacking the “hate and bigotry on display in Charlottesville” hours after Unite the Right.
While the Republican Party has not responded to our request for an interview, we’re interested in hearing from Republicans about this issue.
Are you a longtime GOP voter or official concerned about the creeping influence of white nationalism in your party? Please send us an email. Or, if you’re a white nationalist and want to share your plans for taking over the party, we’re all ears.
Here’s my “Weird that this keeps happening, right?” list. While it’s far from comprehensive, it paints a vivid picture of instances of connection between the GOP and the white nationalist movement.
Sitting GOP officials embracing white nationalists
- Rep. Steve King of Iowa retweeted white supremacist YouTube personality Lana Lokteff while making an argument equating “leftists” with Nazis.
- Speaking at a conference organized by the conservative nonprofit Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund and right-wing news site Gateway Pundit, King said, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” which is a direct echo of a white nationalist “14 Words” slogan.
- Speaking in the wake of an anti-Semitic mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, King defended his support of Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by a former Nazi officer and is currently run by a someone with a history of neo-Nazi connections. “If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” King said.
- Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas reportedly called King, who co-chaired Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, to express his support for the congressman after these incidents.
- King publicly endorsed the political campaign of Faith Goldy, a Canadian white nationalist who drew international attention for mounting a failed campaign to become mayor of Toronto earlier this year. In a 2017 blog post, Goldy raised the question of whether there was a “white genocide,” bemoaning that white Canadians were being “replaced” by nonwhite minorities.
- Trump adviser and legal counsel Rudy Giuliani was photographed with Goldy.
- In July, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona spoke at a rally supporting U.K. Islamophobic extremist Tommy Robinson. “I’d personally send every adult male Muslim that has come into the EU over the past 12 months back tomorrow if I could,” Robinson tweeted in 2016. During another pro-Robinson rally this year, Robinson supporters in the crowd performed Nazi salutes.
- A staffer for Virginia Senate candidate Corey Stewart participated in a chat room of white nationalist activists. The chat group also included Jason Kessler, who organized 2017’s neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
- Stewart appointed a neo-Nazi sympathizer to organize an official campaign fundraiser in October. The organizer had shared an obscure meme on social media directly expressing support for George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party.
- Cecily Wright, then-chairwoman of the Spokane County GOP in Washington, spoke out in support of white supremacist James Allsup, a local GOP official who recently won an otherwise uncontested party post. Allsup drew controversy for attending the Unite the Right rally and affiliating with the white nationalist group Identity Evropa. Wright had publicly condemned Allsup one week before defending him at a private party event.
- Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who recently won Florida’s race for governor, moderated a Facebook group that frequently trafficked in white nationalist and other racist content, along with Virginia Senate nominee Corey Stewart, Nevada congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian, West Virginia senatorial candidate Patrick Morrisey, Montana senatorial candidate Matt Rosendale, and Texas congressional candidate Daniel Crenshaw. All of them quit the group after reports of their involvement came out.
- DeSantis spoke at four racially charged conferences held by the anti-immigrant David Horowitz Freedom Center. The organizer of those events previously had said America’s “only serious race war” is against white people. In a 2011 speech at Brooklyn College, Horowitz said of Islam: “The problem is when you have a religion which preaches war and violence and hate, rationality is never gonna take over.”
- DeSantis also spoke at a conference organized by the Islamophobic group ACT for America. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled ACT for America as a hate group for repeatedly pushing anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.
- Corey Breier, who served as the Jewish outreach chairman for the DeSantis campaign, participated in a protest at a Democratic campaign event with the Proud Boys, an alt-right men’s group with deep ties to the white nationalist movement, even though the organization does have nonwhite members. The Proud Boys repeatedly have been involved in political street violence across the country.
- Former homeland security official Ian Smith, who was appointed by Trump, was in frequent contact with white nationalists prior to his joining the administration, including with movement figurehead Richard Spencer and self-proclaimed “white advocate” Jared Taylor. In his emails with white supremacist leaders, Smith frequently used deeply anti-Semitic language. Smith attended several White House meetings about immigration policy.
- Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida posed for a photo with members of the Proud Boys.
- Former White House speechwriter Darren Beattie spoke at the H.L. Mencken Club Conference, which is regularly attended by white nationalists such as Spencer.
- On his campaign website, Kansas gubernatorial candidate and current Secretary of State Kris Kobach approvingly cited the writings of Peter Gemma, a Holocaust-denying white nationalist, while pushing a widely debunked lie linking crime in major urban areas with illegal immigration.
- Gemma resigned from the Sarasota, Florida, GOP executive committee after being outed as a white nationalist.
- Three of Kobach’s campaign staffers were identified as members of a faction of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa.
- Trump senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow personally hosted white nationalist writer and anti-immigration advocate Peter Brimelow at his birthday party in his home. Connecticut gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski also attended the party.
- Former Trump adviser Roger Stone and former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was personally pardoned by Trump for criminal contempt, spoke at the Mother of All Rallies, attended by alt-right militia groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters and members of the Proud Boys.
- Oregon state Rep. Mike Nearman was outed as the vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as a hate group and has links to influential white nationalist eugenicist John Tanton.
- Ronald Vitiello, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, attended a conference organized by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which was founded Tanton.
- Colorado statehouse candidate Grady Nouis participated in several rallies organized by the Proud Boys and ACT for America. Nouis shared a video from one of the events on social media that shows him shouting a racial slur during an argument with African American protesters.
- New York state Sen. Marty Golden, has a campaign staffer, Ian Reilly, who is also a member of the Proud Boys. Reilly invited Proud Boys members, including group founder Gavin McInnes, to speak at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Republican Club. Members of the group got into violent altercations immediately afterward. Five Proud Boys were arrested following the event.
- Fred Fleitz, chief of staff for national security adviser John Bolton, left the White House to run the Center for Security Policy, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as a hate group.
- Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party, promoted and attended an event where Proud Boys attacked a Democratic campaign office. Enrique Tarrio, who controls the Proud Boys chapter that attacked the office, attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
- Dana Jeffares, a GOP precinct chairman in Georgia, runs a pro-succession Twitter account that puts out racist, homophobic and Islamophobic content. While attending Trump’s inauguration in Washington, Jeffares hung out with white nationalist blogger Brad Griffin.
- J.P. Sheehan resigned from the Republican Town Committee in Bethel, Connecticut, after it was revealed that he advocated for the creation of a “white ethno-state.”
- North Carolina state Sen. Dan Bishop is an investor in the alt-right social network Gab, which is full of white nationalist, neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda. The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter used his Gab account to announce his attack and frequently interacted with other white supremacists through the site.
- Rep. Claudia Tenney of New York traveled to New Orleans to meet with Charles Marsala, a onetime failed Senate candidate who has a history of circulating white nationalist propaganda.
- In 2017, Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama attended a conference hosted by Austria’s National Council of the Freedom Party, which was founded by a Nazi officer and is led by a politician with a history of neo-Nazi associations.
GOP officials spouting white nationalist rhetoric
- Rep. Steve King of Iowa openly preached white nationalism in an interview with an anti-Semitic Austrian news site, shortly after visiting the memorial at the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.
- Guy Sands-Pingot, who was nominated to a top U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services post by the Trump administration, made Facebook posts comparing Muslims with the Nazi Party.
- Eric Blankenstein, a policy director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who was appointed by Trump, wrote a series of racist blog posts in which he frequently used racial slurs and asserted most hate crime reports were hoaxes.
- Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler liked a racist Facebook post equating Barack and Michelle Obama with monkeys, echoing an old racist stereotype of African Americans.
- Minnesota state Sen. Karin Housley, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, also compared Michelle Obama to a chimpanzee in a Facebook post.
- A Kansas GOP official, Michael Kalny, posted on Facebook calling Democratic congressional candidate Sharice Davids a “radical socialist kick boxing lesbian Indian (who) will be sent back packing to the reservation.” Shortly after the post made headlines, the official resigned from his position as a precinct chairman.
- Connecticut Republican state Senate candidate Ed Charamut sent out a mailer depicting his opponent, Democrat Matthew Lesser, who is Jewish, clutching a fistful of money. Lesser won the election.
- Carla Maloney, secretary of the Republican Committee of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, wrote a Facebook post calling NFL players who kneel during the national anthem “baboons.” Maloney resigned following news reports about her post.
- Washington state Rep. Matt Shea distributed a four-page manifesto titled, “Biblical Basis for War,” which called for a genocidal war against non-Christians. The Spokane County sheriff called it “a ‘how to’ manual consistent with the ideology and operating philosophy of the Christian Identity/Aryan Nations movement.” This manifesto did not stop Shea from winning re-election.
White nationalists running for elected office as Republicans
- John Fitzgerald, a GOP candidate in a California congressional race, is a Holocaust denier whose campaign website urged voters to look at “Jewish supremacism.”
- Patrick Little, an open neo-Nazi, unsuccessfully ran for the GOP Senate nomination in California.
- Seth Grossman, the unsuccessful GOP nominee for a New Jersey congressional seat, published opinion pieces on white nationalist websites. In one piece, Grossmann wrote: “My experience has also taught me that blacks are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths.”
- KKK member Arthur Jones won the GOP nomination for an Illinois congressional seat, but lost in the general election.
- White nationalist Paul Nehlen repeatedly has run for Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin congressional seat as a Republican. Nehlen’s attempts to unseat Ryan received the backing of one-time GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Nehlen also gave a speech at the final campaign rally of Alabama Republican Roy Moore’s failed 2017 Senate run.
- White nationalist Bryan Feste ran for the Hawaii House of Representatives as a Republican and distributed fliers attacking black people and Jews. Feste said the intention of his long-shot bid for office to “develop tactics” for future white nationalist candidates.
- Missouri Republican Steve West won the party’s primary for a state House seat, even though he said in a radio interview that “Hitler was right.” West’s children urged residents not to vote for their father because of his history of spreading homophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. MIssouri voters took their advice and didn’t elect him to office.
- David Reid Ross, a Republican running for a state House seat in Colorado, ran a racist blog that says things such as, “I’ve said Islam is bad, that blacks are unready for universal franchise, and that homosexuality is a disease.” Ross dropped out of the race after news of his blog became public.
- The campaign of Vickie Paladino, a Republican state Senate candidate who unsuccessfully ran in Queens, New York, openly courted the support of white supremacists and violent extremist groups such as the Proud Boys
White supremacists showing direct support for Republicans
- Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign accepted contributions from neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Those donations were not returned even after news of them became public.
- A Trump-supporting white supremacist was arrested in Florida for sending mail bombs to political, media and philanthropic figures frequently targeted by Trump, and other major conservative figures, for criticism.
- An Idaho neo-Nazi group organized robocalls in support of GOP Florida gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis. That same group continued its robocall campaign well after it was first reported.
- Steven Alembik, a Republican donor who has given $20,000 to DeSantis, tweeted an obscene, racist and Islamophobic slur in response to a tweet about President Barack Obama.
- A white supremacist group in South Carolina held a “Build the Wall” rally echoing Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.
- Patrick Casey, executive director of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, told NBC News while at the Conservative Political Action Conference that his goal was to “take over the GOP as much as possible.”
- James Stachowiak, a white nationalist who harassed Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, posed for a photo with Abram’s GOP opponent, Brian Kemp. In the photo, Stachowiak is wearing an obviously Islamophobic shirt.
- Patrick Stein, a Trump supporter who was convicted of a terror plot to kill Muslims, cited Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric as the political “backdrop” in an effort to defend his actions during a sentencing hearing.
- In Pennsylvania, fliers with white supremacist rhetoric were distributed on parked cars outside a debate between Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker and his Democratic opponent, Jess King. The fliers attacked King for her support of immigration.
Correction: We’ve removed one Proud Boys-affiliated incident because we felt it didn’t belong under the category it was listed under, “White supremacists showing direct support for Republicans.”
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