In this week’s roundup: White nationalism thrives in this election season, a roundup of hate crime news and a Chick-fil-A fact check.
On Tuesday, Corey Stewart, who has long flirted with white nationalists and their ideas, won Virginia’s GOP Senate primary.
The same day, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, retweeted a well-known British neo-Nazi, the latest in a long line of such endorsements by the Republican congressman.
These two events are evidence of a broader trend visible across the country: White nationalist politicians feel emboldened in 2018.
A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center this month identified at least eight openly white nationalist candidates running for election this season. These include:
• Paul Nehlen, a virulent anti-Semite who is running for Paul Ryan’s seat in Wisconsin.
• Patrick Little, who ran for Senate in California and has called for an America “free from Jews.”
• Arthur Jones, an avowed neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier who is running for Congress in Illinois and who won the GOP’s nomination in March when the party failed to run anybody against him.
While the more fringe candidates, including Little and Jones, have been disavowed by the Republican establishment, Stewart and King retain their party’s support. Indeed, President Donald Trump cheered on Stewart’s win in Virginia, tweeting congratulations to the GOP candidate.
The winning formula – one that both wins votes and support from Trump, whose backing seems to be essential for aspiring GOP candidates – seems to be to express support for white nationalists early on, and then quickly disavow them. In 2017, Stewart called Nehlen his “hero” for running. He also appeared at an event, in 2017 with Jason Kessler, a white nationalist whose claim to fame is that he organized the Unite the Right rally last year in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Stewart has since said he didn’t realize Nehlen and Kessler, were quite so racist when he supported them. But he remains an ardent supporter of the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments. He tweeted last year that removing Confederate statues was akin to what ISIS would do.
Meanwhile, Kelli Ward, who is running for GOP senator in Arizona, quickly walked back her prior support for Nehlen this week. Ward had tweeted support for Nehlen when he was running for office in August 2016, writing, “Time to change DC by changing who we send there.”
On Wednesday, Ward called Nehlen’s views “outrageous and antithetical to my own.”
The spread of white nationalist rhetoric in American politics comes as Trump has solidified his hold on the Republican Party. There is clear evidence that Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon drew the support of – and in some cases courted – white nationalists and neo-Nazis. And white nationalist rhetoric has become a staple for Fox News personalities such as Tucker Carlson.
The Hate blotter: Notable hate-related news this week
- Police in the small rural town of Red Springs, North Carolina, are investigating racist, hateful notes that were left in the front yards of African American families.
- White supremacist fliers were also found on the streets of the Seattle suburb of Bellevue this week.
- An Arizona man was arrested late last week for allegedly threatening to shoot or bomb attendees at Harvard University’s Black Commencement ceremony last year. Nicholas Zuckerman allegedly encouraged “violence and death” against the Harvard students on his social media accounts.
- A 20-year-old man from suburban Chicago, was charged with a hate crime after allegedly walking up to a man, asking him if he was an Arab, then calling him a terrorist and punching him. Thaddaeus Dankert was arrested on a felony hate crime charge.
- Washington, D.C., police arrested a man for allegedly punching another man after calling him an anti-gay slur. The Washington Blade reports that this is the fourth anti-gay hate crime in the District since April.
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A Chick-fil-A fact check
Are Democratic legislators really drafting a bill that would make it a hate crime to eat at controversial fast-food chain Chick-fil-A?
Snopes.com fact-checked the claim, which had gained some steam on social media in the last week or so. The claim, which originated in a satirical article in the Babylon Bee, a website that describes itself as a “Trusted Source for Christian News Satire,” draws from Chick-fil-A’s controversial and vocal opposition to same-sex marriage.
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