Right-Wing Extremists Making Inroads into Mainstream U.S. Politics

  • June 19, 2018
Arthur Jones, Arthur Jones Nazi

Arthur Jones at a 2016 National Socialist Movement rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Right-wing extremists are making their presence felt in mainstream American politics. Whether they are running for high-profile offices themselves, or aligning themselves with candidates in races around the country, members of the extremist right – and their racist, anti-Semitic views – are experiencing more exposure today than at any time in recent history.

While extremists’ involvement in politics is not new, the country’s major political parties have historically kept fringe candidates and their ideologies at arm’s length.

Holocaust Denial

In one case, the Holocaust denier himself is running for office. In Illinois, former American Nazi Party head Arthur Jones will be the Republican nominee for US Representative for the state’s 3rd Congressional District after running unopposed in the primary. The vocal white supremacist and Holocaust denier will face incumbent Representative Dan Lipinski in the general election.

Jones and his wife are founding (and possibly sole) members of the neo-Nazi America First Committee, which operates under the Nationalist Front umbrella. He often attends events organized by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM), including the April 2017 rally in Pikeville, Kentucky.

Jones has repeatedly run for office, always unsuccessfully, since the 1970s.

While few believe Jones has any chance of winning the 3rd, where voters have elected a Democrat in 24 of the last 25 Congressional races, as a major-party candidate for a statewide seat, Jones will have a significant platform for his hateful views. The candidate’s website pairs “America First” language with outright Holocaust denial, including a “Holocaust Racket” diatribe that blames “Organized World Jewry” for perpetrating “the biggest, blackest lie in history.”

Responding to Jones’s candidacy, Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, issued the following statement: “The Illinois Republican Party and our country have no place for Nazis like Arthur Jones. We strongly oppose his racist views and his candidacy for any public office, including the 3rd Congressional District.”

In California’s 11th congressional district, Republican and virulently anti-Israel conspiracy theorist John Fitzgerald won enough votes in the state's June primary to advance to the general election. CA-11, which encompasses a swath of the East Bay, has elected a Democrat to its House seat in the last three elections. Fitzgerald, a small business owner and perennial (unsuccessful) candidate for this seat, is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who often “questions” facts about the Holocaust and defends Holocaust deniers. Staunchly anti-Israel, Fitzgerald also makes frequent (false) references to Jewish Americans having “dual citizenship” with Israel, which is a common anti-Semitic trope. He promulgates some of the most common right-wing conspiracy theories about chem trails, the Federal Reserve, internment camps, vaccines and GMOs, and believes that Planned Parenthood is working in concert with the United Nations to “sexualize” the nation’s public school children.

In other cases, major party elected officials are providing Holocaust deniers a public platform (and public validation).

In October 2017, U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) hosted Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson at a meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Johnson has questioned the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and has theorized that the Auschwitz concentration camp and gas chambers never existed.

In February 2018, U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) welcomed Johnson as his guest at the State of the Union address. Even after he was provided with background materials on Johnson, Gaetz declined to rescind his invitation.

Anti-Semitic Media Outlets

Anti-Semitic media outlets are also getting in on the act, providing controversial candidates with potentially valuable publicity.

Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel made a January 2018 appearance on Ian Trottier’s radio program, ostensibly to discuss his new book. Trottier is a known anti-Semite and enthusiastic conspiracy theorist, who believes 9/11 may have been perpetrated by the “World Zionist Organization.” McDaniel has denied that he knew anything about Trottier’s beliefs or previous statements. This is not McDaniel’s first brush with extremist ideology; he spoke at a 2013 neo-Confederate event and retweeted a white supremacist’s message in 2014.

In Arizona, U.S. Senate candidate and former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio has given five interviews since 2014 to the American Free Press, a longstanding white supremacist, anti-Semitic “news” website founded by Holocaust denier Willis Carto.

When a reporter from the Arizona Republic asked about the interviews, Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt (and later controversially pardoned by President Trump) for defying an order to stop racially profiling Latinos, asked, "What am I supposed to do? Investigate every media outlet to see what stories they write?" Later, he released the following statement: “It was brought to my attention I gave interview to publication that supports antisemitism; I was unaware and don't support that view point” (sic).

Back in 2006, Lou Barletta, then-mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and current U.S. Senate candidate (R-PA), granted an interview with the American Free Press, promoting his hardline anti-immigration policies. Barletta also headlined a 2007 rally alongside Paul Topete, a musician known for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

White Supremacist & Anti-Semitic Bile

Meanwhile, Paul Nehlen, a Wisconsin Republican who hopes to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan, is increasingly touting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and unapologetically racist views from his official Twitter account and on white supremacist podcasts.

Nehlen, a businessman with no political experience, continues to post overtly anti-Semitic, racist and anti-immigrant messages, many of which have been promoted widely by accounts linked to alt righters and other white supremacists, including Richard Spencer and David Duke.


Nehlen Jewish

In June, a video surfaced of Corey Stewart, Virginia's GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, referring to Nehlen as one of his “personal heroes" at a political event in February 2017.  In a video obtained by CNN, Stewart praised Nehlen again in November 2017, after Nehlen had made his anti-Semitic, white supremacist positions public. In the exchange, Stewart expresses support for Nehlen’s candidacy and refers to him as a “real conservative.”

Stewart, who is running for Democrat Tim Kaine's seat after an unsuccessful 2017 bid for governor, was an outspoken supporter of the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and has appeared publicly several times with its local organizer, Jason Kessler. A recent Stewart campaign email praised “volunteer of the week” Ian MacDonald, whose Facebook page includes memes of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell.

In California, outspoken anti-Semite and Republican Patrick Little hoped to challenge Democrat Dianne Feinstein for her U.S. Senate seat, but won just 1.4 percent of the vote (or about 61,000 votes) in the state's June 5 party-blind primary. The day after the primary, Little took to social media to demand a recount, claiming that he'd come in first or second, but that votes were being suppressed by "Jewish supremacists and Zionists." 

Little, who attended the 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and told Newsweek he "admires" Adolf Hitler, has been publicly denounced by the California Republican Party. 

Little’s Gab (social media) account is littered with anti-Semitic comments, including his oft-repeated pledge to help create a government “free from Jews.”

In a local Tennessee race, Keith Alexander, who served on the board of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and has co-hosted the right-wing extremist radio show “The Political Cesspool,” was on the ballot May 1 as the Republican candidate for Shelby County Assessor. (Alexander lost the primary, earning 38 percent of the vote).  A member of the local GOP denounced Alexander, who told the Commercial Appeal newspaper, "I don't believe in racism or white nationalism or any of those things. OK? ...The idea of having any racially homogeneous nation, that ship has sailed.'' 

Alexander claims he’s no longer associated with the CCC, which he characterized as "probably too extreme," or with his former “Cesspool” co-host, the well-known white supremacist and anti-Semite James Edwards. Alexander last co-hosted the show on December 30, 2017, according to the Commercial Appeal.

In June, white supremacist activist and Identity Evropa member James Orien Allsup went unchallenged in his campaign to become a Whitman County (Washington) Republican Precinct Committee Officer. The local GOP immediately denounced Allsup and are reportedly examining their bylaws for a way to remove him from the position. 

Allsup is best known for his far-right podcasts and as the former president of the College Republican chapter at Washington State University. In March 2018, Allsup spoke at Identity Evropa’s national conference in Tennessee. In 2017, he participated in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

West Virginia white supremacist Harry V. Bertram says he is the “American Freedom Union” candidate for District 51’s Assembly member (a position known as State Representative elsewhere). Bertram has run repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) for office for years; he was a candidate in 2011, 2012 and 2014 for various state positions.

In Tennessee, white supremacist Rick Tyler is running (simultaneously) for Congress and governor. Tyler, who lives in Polk County, helped plan June’s Nationalist Solutions conference, which attracted high profile white supremacists including David Duke, Kevin MacDonald and many others.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Congressional Republican candidate Sean Donahue, an outspoken white nationalist, recently told a reporter from The Nation, “The United States was intended to be white…. I don’t see why we had to have the Fair Housing Act.”

As a 501(c )(3) non-profit organization, the Anti-Defamation League does not support or oppose candidates for political office.

More from this Section