A Wisconsin businessman challenging House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in next year’s congressional primaries denounced “globalists from both parties” Wednesday, after his anti-Semitic tweets prompted Breitbart News to distance itself from his campaign.
“Allow me to answer with this question: If pro-White is White supremacy, what is pro-Jewish?” Nehlen told The Washington Post in a text message. “I reject being called a White Supremacist, because clearly Pro-White isn’t White Supremacy unless Pro-Jewish is Jewish Supremacy.”
CNN’s Oliver Darcy first reported that Stephen K. Bannon, who left a political role at the White House to return to Breitbart, had “cut ties” with Nehlen, citing an interview with one of Bannon’s advisers. Arthur Schwartz, an adviser to Bannon, told the Washington Post that the decision was made after Bannon learned of Nehlen’s appearance on white nationalist podcasts. In tweets Tuesday night, Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak said that the site was no longer paying attention to Nehlen.
“He’s gone off the deep end,” Pollak wrote. “We don’t support him. Haven’t covered him in months.”
The hands-off approach to Nehlen’s campaign was a major shift; in 2016, Breitbart had sent reporters to Ryan’s congressional district to cover Nehlen’s challenge, running as many as 30 stories a week. Julia Hahn, one of the Breitbart reporters on the ground for the Nehlen race, followed Bannon into the White House when he became President Trump’s chief strategist. After Nehlen was defeated, taking just 16 percent of the vote, he contributed some commentary to Breitbart. His archive on the site has been deleted.
But as recently as Dec. 11, when Nehlen joined Bannon and a host of conservative speakers at GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore’s final rally in Alabama, he was one of the higher-profile insurgent candidates running at the Republican “establishment” from the right. Nehlen, who said he’d raised $150,000 to help Moore, told The Post at the time that he was ready to repel any attack Ryan or the Republican Party launched at him.
“You’re going to see candidates like Roy Moore, like myself, like Kelli Ward [of Arizona] standing strong with President Trump,” Nehlen told The Post after his speech at the rally. “Paul Ryan took dirty pedophile money from Dennis Hastert, and he never gave it back.” Hastert, a Republican who was House speaker from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty to a felony in 2015 and admitted at his sentencing hearing that he had sexually abused teenagers in the past.
By Dec. 11, Nehlen’s flirtations with the so-called “alt-right” had been widely reported. He had an active account on Gab, a chat site that has positioned itself as a gathering place for white nationalists as Twitter and Facebook have cracked down on “hate speech.” On the site, he shared and reposted memes — including the slogan “it’s okay to be white” — and accused Ryan of wanting to “replace American whites with anti-white substandard foreign” workers.
On Dec. 9, Nehlen appeared on the white-nationalist podcast “Fash the Nation,” where he referred to a Twitter ban by saying he’d been “shoah’d for 12 hours” — a reference to the Holocaust — and said that Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), then in the process of resigning from Congress over a sex scandal, had been targeted over his politics.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Rep. Franks has an A-rating from Numbers USA,” said Nehlen, referring to a group that favors restrictions on legal immigration.
Nehlen also recounted a Twitter fight between himself and John Podhoretz, and he laughed at how the editor of Commentary had called him a “catamite,” a word he had to look up in the dictionary.
“What race even has that word?” Nehlen said, apparently referring to Jews. “Well, there’s one, right?”
After Moore’s defeat, Nehlen got into more Twitter spats, often deploying alt-right imagery or arguments. He attacked one writer, Ari Cohn, by putting a “bell” made of parentheses around his name — a symbol that racist accounts have used to identify Jews.
He shared more memes to promote the “It’s Okay to Be White” slogan.
He criticized Minneapolis police for removing a memorial that white nationalists had created for a white woman shot by a Somalia-born officer.
And he showcased his copy of a book, “The Culture of Critique,” in which author Kevin MacDonald argues that “millions of people have been killed as a result of the failure of Jewish assimilation into European societies.”
Nehlen responded to a question about Breitbart and Bannon by sharing the same statement he had given CNN. “Putting America First above all other nations, such as being pro-wall and for freedom of lawful speech, has brought a coordinated attack by globalists from both parties; nevertheless I will continue to stand strong against anti-American sentiment, however it manifests,” he said.
On far-right social media and news sites, Nehlen’s public brawls with center-right figures have become celebrated.
“Nehlen can comfortably enter the political arena and use his history as a hard-working, productive citizen to back up his aggressive campaign,” wrote “Ash Brighton,” a contributor to “Fash The Nation,” on Dec. 20. “With just twenty people or so like Paul Nehlen in Congress, there won’t be enough resources in the anti-White establishment to mount an effective resistance.”