CNN on Tuesday interviewed one of the most prominent white nationalists in the US, Richard Spencer, in a segment focusing on neo-Nazi reactions to President Donald Trump’s racist tweets from Sunday.
Trump in his Sunday tweets suggested four progressive Democratic lawmakers who are women of color should “go back” to their countries of origin if they don’t like the US. The four lawmakers — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley — are all US citizens. Three were born in the US.
The House on Tuesday passed a resolution condemning Trump over his tweets, which parroted the racist “go back to Africa” trope. Trump has denied that the tweets were racist.
Spencer told CNN’s Sara Snider that Trump’s tweets, which he referred to as “racist,” didn’t go far enough for white supremacists like him.
“Many white nationalists will eat up this red meat that Donald Trump is throwing out there,” Spencer said, but he said that he is not one of them because he “recognizes” what he characterized as a “the con-game that is going on.”
“He gives us nothing outside of racist tweets,” Spencer said. “And by racist tweets, I mean tweets that are meaningless and cheap and express the kind of sentiments you might hear from your drunk uncle while he’s watching [Sean] Hannity.”
Spencer tweeted out the CNN segment shortly after it aired.
Meanwhile, CNN was slammed by a number of reporters, including those who cover the far-right, for hosting Spencer. Some accused the network of normalizing the white nationalist.
CNN’s Jake Tapper defended the interview in a tweet and said his colleague Snider does a “great job” in her coverage of white supremacists.
But Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Project at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, told The Daily Beast that CNN “didn’t understand” that Spencer was “trying to position Trump as a moderate and to mock other white supremacists who supported Trump.”
“Spencer was saying that Trump was performing racism on Twitter, but that his policies do not go far enough to be considered support for white supremacists goals,” Donovan added.
Though he didn’t get approval from Spencer over his tweets, the president was praised by the white nationalist website Daily Stormer over his racist tweets. This is not the first time he’s been trumpeted by white supremacists, however. Trump was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan in 2016, but his campaign rejected its support.
Spencer in recent years has emerged as one of the most well-known faces linked to white nationalism and participated in the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. A counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was killed at the march by a white nationalist.
Trump controversially responded to that rally by blaming the violence on “many sides,” and later stating that there were “very fine people on both sides” at the rally. He was praised by white nationalist figures like former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke over his response to Charlottesville.
In May, Spencer said Charlottesville wouldn’t have happened without Trump.
“There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn’t have occurred without Trump,” Spencer said at the time. “It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way.”
Not longer after Trump was elected, Spencer led a group of white nationalists in celebrating Trump’s victory with a Nazi salute in a moment that was caught on video that went viral. He was also punched in the face during a TV interview amid protests during Trump’s inauguration in another moment that went viral.
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