UPDATED: The Complete History Of Donald Trump's Relationship With The White Nationalist Movement
Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI
UPDATE: This guide was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated in light of Donald Trump’s election as president and his selection of Stephen Bannon as a senior White House adviser -- a move that has been widely praised by white nationalists.
Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign engaged in a disturbing courtship with the racist white nationalist movement that is unprecedented in recent American political history. That effort has taken on new life with Trump's selection of Stephen Bannon to a senior White House position.
Bannon oversaw Breitbart News’ attempts to normalize and embrace the white nationalist movement. As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted, Breitbart "has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas."
White nationalist themes were at the center of Trump's campaign since its inception and Trump's moves have been repeatedly praised by white nationalists. He began his campaign by smearing Mexican immigrants as violent criminals and rapists and later called for a ban on Muslim immigration. Trump attacked the Mexican heritage of an American-born judge and smeared the family of a fallen Muslim-American soldier. Trump also initially refused to condemn the support of David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
White nationalists didn't only praise Trump from afar: They rubbed elbows with the campaign. Trump himself has repeatedly retweeted white supremacist messages and accounts, such as “WhiteGenocideTM.” Trump surrogates have directly courted white nationalists by giving interviews to white nationalist media outlets. A “pro-white” radio host received press credentials to cover a Trump rally and the Republican National Convention. And Trump selected the leader of a white nationalist political party to be a convention delegate (he resigned following media exposure).
White nationalists have used Trump's tacit and direct support to breathe new life into their movement. The movement’s leaders have said they have seen "unprecedented interest" in their activities and message. They have used Trump to fundraise and build up their organizations. And white nationalist leaders say they and their ideas are now "firmly in the mainstream" thanks to Trump.
The following is a history of the Trump campaign’s disturbing relationship with the white nationalist movement.
Associated Press: “Experts Say White Supremacists See Trump As 'Last Stand.'” The Associated Press reported that “Trump and his campaign are expressing ideas similar to those espoused by white supremacists, legal, media and civil rights experts say. In addition, the experts said Wednesday, white supremacists are using the 2016 presidential elections to attempt to control the culture of politics.” From the piece:
Angelo Carusone, executive vice president of Media Matters for America, a liberal advocacy group, noted that Trump has retweeted posts from white supremacist accounts on Twitter.
Twitter is Trump's biggest microphone, and his rhetoric correlates with some of the beliefs of white supremacy organizations and communities, Carusone said.
Sophie Bjork-James, a Vanderbilt University lecturer and expert in white supremacist social movements, said white nationalists are attempting to increase their numbers through Trump's campaign. [The Associated Press, 8/11/16]
David Duke: “Voting Against Donald Trump At This Point Is Really Treason To Your Heritage.” David Duke is a white supremacist radio host and former Ku Klux Klan wizard. He is currently running for the U.S. Senate and cited Trump as an inspiration for his run. [BuzzFeed, 2/25/16; Media Matters, 3/1/16, 7/22/16]
“Pro-White” Radio Host James Edwards: "Trump Will Be The First Republican Nominee That I Have Ever Voted For." James Edwards is the host of the “pro-white” radio program The Political Cesspool. Edwards is a David Duke acolyte and he “has probably done more than any of his contemporaries on the American radical right to publicly promote neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, raging anti-Semites and other extremists," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Edwards has written: “For blacks in the Americas, slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Unfortunately, it's the worst thing that ever happened to white Americans”; “MLK's dream is our nightmare”; and “Interracial sex is white genocide.” [Media Matters, 7/24/16; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 8/18/16]
Hate Publication Leader Kevin MacDonald: "Trump Is Saying What White Americans Have Been Actually Thinking For A Very Long Time." The Southern Poverty Law Center described Kevin MacDonald as “the neo-Nazi movement's favorite academic” who “published a trilogy that supposedly ‘proves’ that Jews are genetically driven to destroy Western societies.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 8/18/16; Media Matters, 8/27/15]
Neo-Nazi Site Daily Stormer: "Vote For The First Time In Our Lives For The One Man Who Actually Represents Our Interests." The Daily Stormer is a neo-Nazi website headed by Andrew Anglin that has endorsed Trump and is enthusiastically supporting his campaign. The website regularly defends Adolf Hitler, attacks “kikes,” and has a section documenting the purported “Jewish Problem.” [Media Matters, 8/27/15]
Hate Group Leader Jared Taylor: "Trump May Be The Last Hope For A President Who Would Be Good For White People." The Southern Poverty Law Center writes that Taylor “is the founder of the New Century Foundation and edits its American Renaissance magazine, which, despite its pseudo-academic polish, regularly publishes proponents of eugenics and blatant anti-black and anti-Latino racists. Taylor also hosts a conference every other year where racist intellectuals rub shoulders with Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 8/18/16; Media Matters, 8/27/15]
Hate Group Leader Richard Spencer: “Trump Thinks Like Me. … Do You Think It's A Coincidence That Everybody Like Me Loves Trump And Supports Him?” Richard Spencer is the head of the white nationalist National Policy Institute. The Associated Press reported that Spencer “matter-of-factly called for removing African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the United States” while at the Republican National Convention. [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 8/18/16; The Associated Press, 7/25/16]
Stormfront Founder Don Black: “We Are All Pulling For Him, Voting For Him If We Can.” The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that Black is a “former Klan state leader and long-time white supremacist” who created “Stormfront.org, the first major Internet hate site.” [BuzzFeed, 3/25/16; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 8/18/16]
White Nationalist Political Party Leader William Johnson: “I Urge You To Vote For Donald Trump.” William Daniel Johnson heads the American Freedom Party and “has called for a whites-only United States and the deportation of other races and ethnicities.” He also founded the pro-Trump group American National Super PAC, was initially selected as a Trump convention delegate, and issued pro-Trump robocalls in key primary states. [The Washington Post, 5/11/16; Talking Points Memo, 1/9/16]
Early In Primary Campaign, White Nationalists Praised Trump’s Stance On Immigration. Trump’s stance on immigration drew white nationalists to his campaign during the early months of the Republican primary. They said Trump was "doing the Lord's work," remarked that his plan was the "most explicit any presidential candidate has ever been," and said Trump could halt "the speed with which whites are reduced to a minority." [Media Matters, 8/27/15]
White Nationalist Media Backed Trump's Anti-Muslim Plan. White nationalists praised Trump’s plan "for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." They called Trump's proposal "so wonderful" and "100% reasonable" because Muslims purportedly provide "absolutely nothing of value to this once-great nation." [Media Matters, 12/8/15]
Trump’s White Nationalist Backers Applauded His Racist Attacks On Federal Judge. White nationalists praised Trump’s racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel for purportedly being biased because “he’s a Mexican.” They called the judge a “terrorist spic,” claimed “Diversity is not strength, and it above all is not an impartial judiciary,” said the attacks against Trump are because of “Jewish manipulation,” and celebrated that Trump “is waking up” white Americans “from their collective hypnosis.” [Media Matters, 6/7/16]
White Nationalists Hailed Trump For “Stunning” Anti-Semitic Tweet. White nationalist leaders praised Trump for tweeting an anti-Semitic image attacking Hillary Clinton. They wrote that the tweet represented “dog-whistling by The Leader” about “filthy Jew terrorists,” proof that “Trump is not backing down,” and that it’s “Nice to see Mr. Trump slipping some 'Red Pills' to the American people.” [Media Matters, 7/5/16]
White Nationalists Praised Trump’s Convention. White nationalists praised Trump and the 2016 Republican National Convention. They celebrated that their tweets were featured in the convention hall, defended Melania Trump’s plagiarism from attacks by “the filthy Jews,” and hailed that the Republican Party “is becoming the de facto white party.” They also praised Trump’s convention speech, stating that they “couldn't have said it better” and “couldn’t be happier”; and said that Trump was focusing on the “negative effects” of immigration and using “codewords” that appeal to whites. [Media Matters, 7/20/16, 7/22/16]
White Nationalists Loved Trump’s Attacks Against Muslim-American Gold Star Parents. White nationalists praised Trump for his “rightful” attacks against Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Khizr Khan delivered a convention speech honoring son Humayun Khan, who was killed while serving in Iraq, and criticizing Trump. White nationalists said that Trump’s anti-Muslim comments prove he’s “the real thing,” claimed the fallen soldier was a “terrorist” infiltrator, and called for the Khans to be deported. [Media Matters, 8/2/16]
White Nationalists Rejoiced At Trump’s Hiring Of Breitbart News Chief Stephen Bannon. The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that under Bannon, Breitbart.com “has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas.” The Daily Beast similarly wrote that “Bannon did a lot to normalize the racist, anti-Semitic world of the alt right.” VDare’s Peter Brimelow praised Bannon’s hiring in the Daily Beast, saying that “Breitbart emerged as a nationalist site and done great stuff on immigration in particular.” Richard Spencer also approved of the hiring, stating, “Breitbart has elective affinities with the Alt Right, and the Alt Right has clearly influenced Breitbart.” The Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin supported Bannon’s hiring, stating that “Breitbart has, over the last year, gone from Fox News-style cuckism to full-on Stormer-tier on most issues (not the Jews, of course).” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 4/28/16, Daily Beast, 8/17/16; Daily Stormer, 8/18/16]
White Nationalists Loved Trump’s “Nazi” Closing Ad Because It “Blasts” The “Evil Jews.” White nationalists praised Trump’s closing campaign ad, which was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League, as “absolutely fantastic” because it shows that Jewish people are “eating away at the flesh of this once-great nation.” [Media Matters, 11/7/16]
White Nationalists Praised Mike Pence For Refusing To Call David Duke “Deplorable.” White nationalists praised Trump running mate Mike Pence for refusing to call David Duke “deplorable.” The racist media figures reacted by saying Pence is “a solid guy,” “It’s good to see,” and “Bravo!” [Media Matters, 9/13/16]
White Nationalists Cheered August Immigration Speech By Trump. On August 31, Trump delivered a speech about immigration in Arizona. The speech was hailed by white nationalists as a “Hell of a speech” and “excellent.” [Media Matters, 8/31/16]
White Nationalists Were Thrilled With Speech That Was Packed With Anti-Semitic Themes. Trump delivered an October speech in Florida that was heavily criticized for trafficking in anti-Semitic themes. White nationalists praised the contents of Trump’s “incredible” speech because it attacked “Jewish radicals” and managed “to channel Goebbels.” [Media Matters, 10/14/16]
White Nationalists Praised Donald Trump Jr. For Actions During Campaign. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump Jr. made a “gas chamber” reference, retweeted an anti-Semitic author, and compared Syrian refugees to Skittles. Trump Jr.’s actions endeared him to neo-Nazi websites, which have celebrated Trump's son for having “hit a nerve” with the “Jew Media” and for indicating that “a part of him has been with us since day one.” [Media Matters, 9/20/16]
Trump Has Repeatedly Retweeted White Supremacist Accounts. The New York Times wrote of Trump’s penchant for promoting white nationalists on Twitter:
But on the flatlands of social media, the border between Mr. Trump and white supremacists easily blurs. He has retweeted supportive messages from racist or nationalist Twitter accounts to his nine million followers. Last fall, he retweeted a graphic with fictitious crime statistics claiming that 81 percent of white homicide victims in 2015 were killed by blacks. (No such statistic was available for 2015 at the time; the actual figure for 2014 was 15 percent, according to the F.B.I.)
In January and February he retweeted messages from a user with the handle @WhiteGenocideTM, whose profile picture is of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. A couple of days later, in quick succession, he retweeted two more accounts featuring white nationalist or Nazi themes. Mr. Trump deleted one of the retweets, but white supremacists saw more than a twitch of the thumb. “Our Glorious Leader and ULTIMATE SAVIOR has gone full wink-wink-wink to his most aggressive supporters,” Mr. Anglin wrote on The Daily Stormer.
In fact, Mr. Trump’s Twitter presence is tightly interwoven with hordes of mostly anonymous accounts trafficking in racist and anti-Semitic attacks. When Little Bird, a social media data mining company, analyzed a week of Mr. Trump’s Twitter activity, it found that almost 30 percent of the accounts Mr. Trump retweeted in turn followed one or more of 50 popular self-identified white nationalist accounts. [The New York Times, 7/14/16]
Trump Repeatedly Refused To Denounce David Duke. Trump created an uproar when he repeatedly refused to disavow David Duke for supporting his campaign. Trump later bizarrely blamed a “bad earpiece” for failing to denounce Duke during the interview. [CNN.com, 2/29/16; Washington Examiner, 2/29/16]
Trump Refused To Denounce Neo-Nazi Supporters Who Threatened Reporter. During a May interview, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Trump if he would denounce anti-Semitic death threats against a reporter who wrote a profile of Melania Trump. Trump refused to condemn the threats, saying he was unaware of them and adding, “I don’t have a message to the fans. A woman wrote a article that was inaccurate.” [Media Matters, 5/6/16]
Trump Selected White Nationalist Leader As Delegate. As Mother Jones noted, the Trump campaign selected “William Johnson, one of the country's most prominent white nationalists,” as a convention delegate from California. Johnson later resigned following criticism, and the Trump campaign blamed a "database error" on the selection. [Mother Jones, 5/10/16]
Trump Campaign Was Forced To Return Donation From Johnson. The Trump campaign accepted a $250 donation in September from Johnson and returned it after Media Matters and People for the American Way criticized Trump. [Media Matters, 3/11/16]
Trump Adviser And GOP Congressmen Gave Pro-Trump Interviews To White Nationalist Radio Host James Edwards At The RNC. Several members of Congress and Trump campaign official Gary Berntsen gave pro-Trump interviews to James Edwards and his “pro-white” radio show The Political Cesspool during the Republican National Convention. [Media Matters, 7/24/16]
Trump Campaign Gave Press Credentials To James Edwards. Trump's campaign gave press credentials to Edwards and The Political Cesspool to cover a Tennessee rally in February. [Media Matters, 3/1/16]
Donald Trump Jr. Gave Interview To James Edwards. Donald Trump Jr. gave an interview to white nationalist leader James Edwards. The interview aired on the Liberty RoundTable, which is hosted by Edwards’ syndicator and guest host Sam Bushman. Edwards appeared on the program as a guest and questioner. The Trump campaign later claimed they were not aware of Edwards’ views; Edwards hit back at the campaign by claiming that the interview happened because "a press agency that's scheduling interviews for" Trump Jr. reached out to him. [Media Matters, 3/3/16]
Trump’s Convention Displayed Tweets From White Nationalist Accounts. The Republican National Convention displayed tweets from white nationalist accounts on its ticker. The tweets came from the accounts “@Western_Triumph” and VDare.com. [Time, 7/22/16]
Trump Adviser Retweeted An Anti-Semitic Message. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is advising Trump’s campaign and was reportedly considered as a potential running mate, shared a tweet that read, "Not anymore, Jews. Not Anymore." Flynn later apologized, claiming it “was a mistake.” [CNN.com, 7/24/16]
Trump Surrogates Promoted Campaign In Interview With Neo-Nazi. Diamond and Silk, two YouTube personalities who serve as surrogates for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, promoted his candidacy in an interview with neo-Nazi and Trump supporter John Friend. Friend believes the Holocaust is "one of the most egregious and outrageous falsehoods ever perpetrated," "Jews Did 9/11," and Adolf Hitler was "the greatest thing that's happened to Western civilization." [Media Matters, 3/24/16]
Donald Trump Jr. Retweeted Anti-Semitic Author Kevin MacDonald. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency noted that Trump Jr. in August “retweeted an attack on Hillary Clinton by Kevin MacDonald, a psychologist notorious for his theories of Jewish manipulation and control. The Aug. 29 tweet itself had nothing to do with Jews or the theories that have made MacDonald popular among Holocaust deniers. In it, MacDonald referred to Clinton’s interactions as secretary of state with UBS, a Swiss bank that also has contributed to the Clinton Foundation.” [Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 9/1/16]
Trump Senior Adviser Promoted Anti-Semitic Hate Site’s Trump Endorsement. A.J. Delgado, a senior campaign adviser, retweeted a Trump endorsement from anti-Semitic website The Right Stuff in October. The Right Stuff tweeted: “At this point anyone not insane enough to want a war with Russia should vote Trump.” The tweet prior to the message that Delgado retweeted was an anti-Semitic attack on Republican strategist Dan Senor. [Media Matters, 10/11/16]
Trump Campaign Has Accepted Donations From Prominent White Nationalist Leader William Johnson. The Trump campaign accepted a $250 donation in September 2015 from Johnson and returned it after Media Matters and People for the American Way criticized Trump. However, Johnson subsequently donated more money to the Trump campaign that reportedly has not been returned. The Daily Beast reported in October 2016:
According to FEC filings, Johnson contributed $1,000 on June 22, 2016 and an additional $500 on June 28. Both of these have yet to refunded according to the filings.
When asked about the contributions, Johnson told The Daily Beast he thought had given even more than the documented amount.
“I donated more than $1,500,” he said in an email. “I think I am near the max of $2,500. I paid by credit card and I don't keep my personal accounts, so I don’t know for sure, but I have given on many occasions.” [Media Matters, 3/11/16; The Daily Beast, 10/31/16]
Trump Campaign Accepted Donations From White Nationalist Leaders Michael Polignano And Peter Brimelow. Trump’s campaign accepted donations from Michael Polignano and Peter Brimelow, white nationalists who both manage virulently racist publications. Polignano is the managing editor and webmaster for Counter-Currents, a website and publishing company that publishes white nationalist and pro-Hitler material. Brimelow is the editor of VDare.com, a white nationalist and anti-immigrant website. [Media Matters, 9/14/16]
Politico: “White Supremacist Groups See Trump Bump.” Politico reported in December of Trump and white supremacists:
The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike. And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s.
As hate group monitors at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League warn that Trump’s rhetoric is conducive to anti-Muslim violence, white nationalist leaders are capitalizing on his candidacy to invigorate and expand their movement.
“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” said Stormfront founder Don Black, who reports additional listeners and call volume to his phone-in radio show, in addition to the site’s traffic bump. Black predicts that the white nationalist forces set in motion by Trump will be a legacy that outlives the businessman’s political career. “He’s certainly creating a movement that will continue independently of him even if he does fold at some point.” [Politico, 12/10/15]
Politico: Experts Say “Trump Is Energizing Hate Groups And Creating An Atmosphere Likely To Lead To More Violence Against American Muslims.”
Meanwhile, analysts from the two leading organizations that track violence against minority groups say Trump is energizing hate groups and creating an atmosphere likely to lead to more violence against American Muslims.
According to experts at the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center who monitor hate groups and anti-Muslim sentiment, Trump’s call on Monday to halt the entrance of Muslims to the United States is driving online chatter among white supremacists and is likely to inspire violence against Muslims. [Politico, 12/10/15]
N.Y. Times: “Trump Has Galvanized The Otherwise Marginal World Of Avowed White Nationalists.” The New York Times wrote in July:
Some are elated by the turn. In making the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance more widespread, Mr. Trump has galvanized the otherwise marginal world of avowed white nationalists and self-described “race realists.” They hail him as a fellow traveler who has driven millions of white Americans toward an intuitive embrace of their ideals: that race should matter as much to white people as it does to everyone else. He has freed Americans, those activists say, to say what they really believe. [The New York Times, 7/13/16]
Wall Street Journal: “White Nationalists See Advancement Through Donald Trump’s Candidacy.” The Wall Street Journal reported in May:
White nationalists are hailing Donald Trump’s elevation to presumptive Republican presidential nominee, while also trying to boost their own political profiles and activity.
Although Mr. Trump has spurned these extreme groups’ support, the level of interest within them for the White House candidate rivals that for segregationist George Wallace, who won five states in the 1968 election, and for conservative Republican Pat Buchanan, who denounced multiculturalism in the 1990s.
Mr. Trump is being heralded by these groups for his proposals to bar Muslim immigrants, deport millions of people living illegally in the U.S., and build a wall along the southern border. [The Wall Street Journal, 5/17/16]
Daily News: “Trump’s Racist Rhetoric Emboldens White Supremacist Groups, Neo-Nazis Spouting Hate On The Internet.” New York Daily News reported in December that Trump’s “decision to push divisive rhetoric and policy has opened the door for an array of white supremacy groups, that suddenly feel emboldened and legitimized by Trump’s hateful bombast, to rejoin the national conversation.” [New York Daily News, 12/10/15]
Washington Post: “White Supremacist Movement Is Seizing On Donald Trump’s Appeal.” The Post reported:
Rachel Pendergraft — the national organizer for the Knights Party, a standard-bearer for the Ku Klux Klan — told The Washington Post that the KKK, for one, has a new conversation starter at its disposal.
You might call it a “Trump card.”
It involves, say, walking into a coffee shop or sitting on a train while carrying a newspaper with a Donald Trump headline. The Republican presidential candidate, Pendergraft told The Post, has become a great outreach tool, providing separatists with an easy way to start a conversation about issues that are important to the dying white supremacist movement. [The Washington Post, 12/21/15]
Anti-Defamation League: “Trump’s Rhetoric Resonates With White Supremacists.” The New York Times wrote in July:
“Trump’s rhetoric resonates with white supremacists,” said Joanna Mendelson, an investigative researcher with the Center on Extremism, a branch of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
“They’ve been essentially energized about Trump’s candidacy, and they’ve been very vocal about their support of Trump and his policies on immigration and globalism,” Mendelson said.
In February, the ADL published a list of 10 prominent white supremacists who actively support Trump. Then, in April, it urged the candidate to drop the phrase “America First” as a campaign slogan, pointing out it had been used by Charles Lindbergh, a prominent Nazi sympathizer, in the 1940s. [The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 6/2/16]
White Nationalists Are Using Trump’s Campaign For Fundraising. White nationalist websites like VDare.com and American Renaissance have been using Trump’s candidacy to raise money. Fundraising solicitations hail Trump for spurring "unprecedented interest in" white nationalism and putting their ideas "firmly in the mainstream." [Media Matters, 1/12/16]