Tucker Carlson, a man who has been praised by former Klan leader David Duke and celebrated by the editor of the neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer as “literally our greatest ally,” took to his Fox News show Monday night to declare that white supremacy is a “hoax.” Carlson, who in the past has opposed removing Confederate statutes from public property and parroted white nationalist themes about the fears of “demographic replacement,” told his viewers that, “If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns, of problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list? Right up there with Russia, probably. It’s actually not a real problem in America.”
Carlson continued on to dismiss the threat posed by white supremacy, stating that it was just “a hoax.” “It’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power,” he added.
Putting aside the grotesque callousness of his words, Carlson is woefully wrong when it comes to the facts.
There are families at this very moment grieving the loss of loved ones murdered in Saturday’s apparently racially motivated attack in El Paso. Carlson insults these families by calling the ideology that lead to their deaths nothing more than a conspiracy theory. But putting aside the grotesque callousness of his words, Carlson is woefully wrong when it comes to the facts.
White supremacy is indeed a deadly problem in our nation — and a growing one at that. Not only has law enforcement and those who monitor the rise of hate crime documented this rise, I’ve experienced it firsthand.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the U.S. Senate just last month in July that his agency has made approximately 100 domestic terrorism arrests since October, explaining that “a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which monitors hate crimes, found that murders on U.S. soil by right-wing extremists spiked 35 percent between 2017 and 2018.
Alarmingly, all 50 people killed in 2018 by extremist-related violence were killed by right-wing actors, according to the ADL, the highest number since 1995, when the Oklahoma City federal building was attacked by right wing terrorists. The ADL has also documented “an ever-growing number of white supremacist propaganda efforts” with its data showing a 182 percent increase in the number of incidents of these groups distributing racist and anti-Semitic fliers, banners and posters in 2018 when compared to 2017.
One of the most horrific recent white supremacist attacks on U.S. soil was carried out by Robert Bowers in 2018. In October of that year, and fueled by anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views, Bowers walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people because, in his view, they were helping immigrants come to America via migrant caravans.
This year hasn’t been much better. In April, white supremacist John Earnest posted his chilling plans on the website 8chan — just as the El Paso gunman posted his anti-immigrant manifesto last Saturday — before walking into a synagogue in Poway, California and killing one worshiper and injuring others. (The white supremacist in New Zealand who brutally murdered 50 Muslims at the Christchurch mosque had also posted his racist views on 8chan before the attack and apparently helped inspire the Poway shooter.)
On Tuesday, federal authorities announced they were opening a domestic terrorism investigation into the July 29 shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California that left three dead, including two children. The FBI noted that the shooter had been “exploring violent ideologies,” and NBC confirmed that he had posted online references to an 1890 white supremacist screed.
But again, white supremacy is not an issue simply in the news. For me, it’s personal.
In May 2017, I wrote an article for The Daily Beast calling on Trump to use the words “white supremacist terrorism” to describe three murders that had occurred earlier in 2017, by self-avowed white supremacists. (This was three months before the August 2017 Charlottesville rally.) In response, Andrew Anglin, the editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer who has praised Carlson in the past, fabricated tweets in my name that made it appear that I was taking credit for a deadly ISIS terror attack in Manchester, England. (I’m Muslim, so the smear that I’m a terrorist is particularly painful because it furthers horrible stereotypes about my faith.)
Anglin then wrote articles for his white supremacist publication based on these fabricated tweets and urged his readers to “confront me.” As a result, I became the target of numerous death threats. “Dean better pray he dies of natural causes before we get there,” read one such threat sent to me. This was concerning given that Daily Stormer readers have committed acts of violence in the past — Dylann Roof, who killed nine African Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 — had posted comments on the website.
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But I also refused to be silent or cower in fear. Instead, I filed a lawsuit against Anglin and his website for defamation. In June, a federal judge entered judgment in my favor in the amount of $4.1 million dollars. If I ultimately collect any money from Anglin, I will donate it to the organizations that fight white supremacy.
I’m not the only one who has been attacked by these websites. Tanya Gersh, who is Jewish, was also targeted by Anglin and his readers with vile anti-Semitic barbs and death threats because Gersh had alerted locals to a well-known white nationalist’s ties to her community. Gersh also filed a lawsuit and in July a federal magistrate judge in Montana recommended that Anglin pay Gersh over $14 million dollars in damages.
It’s unclear why Carlson is diminishing the threat of white supremacy. But he’s not just wrong, his comments are potentially aiding and abetting dangerous individuals. Americans need to be alert to the increasing risks posed by this deadly ideology. And those who deny that threat are only helping making our very real white supremacist problem worse.