Update (3/6/20, 5 p.m.): Sterkeson’s YouTube account has now been suspended for violating the platform’s terms of service.
A man who has taken credit for unveiling a swastika flag at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has a YouTube account where he’s spewed anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic rhetoric, along with promoting his actions at the rally, despite YouTube’s pledge to crack down on hate speech.
During a Sanders rally on March 5 in Phoenix, Arizona, a man unfurled a swastika banner behind the presidential candidate shortly after he took the stage. As videos and screengrabs of the incident spread around social media, a man named Robert Sterkeson took credit on YouTube for the incident, writing, “This is me at a Bernie Sanders rally unfurling the Swastika behind him right as he came out. Footage on tomorrow's episode!”
This would not be the first time Sterkeson — who also goes by his handle “Bomb Islam” — has spewed bigotry at a public event. In 2017, a fellow vlogger filmed Sterkeson yelling anti-Islam sentiments at a Council on American-Islamic Relations event featuring Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour in Mesa, Arizona. In the video, Sterkeson approached people with professional cameras and began shouting about his belief that “every single one of them has to go.” Later in the video, a man in a Pepe the frog mask goes inside the lobby of the event hosted at a hotel and tears up a Quran while the person holding the camera calls the Muslims assembled there “bearded monkeys,” saying they have “no place in America.”
Sterkeson has used his YouTube account to push white nationalist rhetoric: In 2018, he posted a video on his channel in which he said, “I hate Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, and n*ggers” and said that he was a Nazi. He also spouted the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, saying, “The traitors that we call politicians are now forcing us to subsidize our own demographic replacement through an insane welfare and immigration system.” The video since then has received over 37,000 views and was promoted as recently as December on 4chan’s “/pol/” message board, a haven for white nationalists.
Additionally, Sterkeson has used his YouTube channel to promote his account on BitChute, a YouTube knockoff popular with the far-right. On his BitChute account, the self-proclaimed Nazi has called neo-Nazi outlet The Daily Stormer “one of the most accurate news sites on the entire internet”; attacked “JewTube” for removing an anti-Muslim video of his and the “kikes” at the Southern Poverty Law Center for calling Bomb Islam a hate group; urged Jews and Muslims to “hop in a gas chamber together”; promoted Holocaust denial; and played a song to the tune of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero attacking minorities.
YouTube has continued to give Sterkeson a platform for his rhetoric despite its promise last summer to “remov[e] more hateful and supremacist content from YouTube.” The platform specifically pledged to prohibit “videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.” Since then, the platform reversed its ban of white nationalist outlet VDare’s channel, which has continued its white nationalist rhetoric, and took months to ban white nationalist Nick Fuentes, whose rhetoric had been well documented.
During his presidential runs, Bernie Sanders has repeatedly been likened to a Nazi by right-wing figures. The comparison is particularly despicable given that Sanders, who is Jewish, lost family in the Holocaust.