Richard B. Spencer
|Born||Richard Bertrand Spencer
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Residence||Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.|
|Alma mater||University of Virginia (BA)
University of Chicago (MA)
|Known for||President and Director of the National Policy Institute
Executive Director of Washington Summit Publishers
|Home town||Whitefish, Montana, U.S.|
Richard Bertrand Spencer (born 1978) is an American white supremacist. He is president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank, as well as Washington Summit Publishers. Spencer has stated that he rejects the label white supremacist and considers himself a member of the identitarian movement. He has advocated for a white homeland for a "dispossessed white race" and called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing" to halt the "deconstruction" of European culture. Spencer and others have said that he created the term "alt-right", which he considers a movement about white identity.
Spencer and his organization drew considerable media attention in the weeks following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, where, at a National Policy Institute conference, he quoted from Nazi propaganda and denounced Jews. In response to his cry "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!", a number of his supporters gave the Nazi salute and chanted in a similar fashion to the Sieg Heil chant used at the Nazis' Nuremberg rallies.
Spencer was one of the featured speakers at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which drew national attention after violent clashes caused Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency, and eventually resulted in injuries and three deaths. Some of his subsequent speaking engagements were denied or canceled, resulting in a lawsuit against Michigan State University and the threat of legal action against the University of Florida. An agreement was reached with the University of Florida allowing him to speak in October 2017. Several days before his scheduled appearance, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency, citing concerns about a "potential emergency" that could result from Spencer's appearance. Spencer has also been banned from entering the United Kingdom since 2016 and he was then banned from entering the Schengen Area in October 2017, a move that bans Spencer from 22 of 28 European Union member states, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland.
Spencer was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of ophthalmologist Rand Spencer and Sherry Spencer (née Dickenhorst), an heiress to cotton farms in Louisiana. He grew up in Preston Hollow, Dallas, Texas. In 1997, he graduated from St. Mark's School of Texas. In 2001, Spencer received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Music from the University of Virginia and, in 2003, a Master of Arts in the Humanities from the University of Chicago. He spent the summer of 2005 and 2006 at the Vienna International Summer University. From 2005 to 2007, he was a PhD student at Duke University studying modern European intellectual history, where he was a member of the Duke Conservative Union. His website says he left Duke "to pursue a life of thought-crime."
From March to December 2007, Spencer was assistant editor at The American Conservative magazine. According to founding editor Scott McConnell, Spencer was fired from The American Conservative because his views were considered too extreme. From January 2008 to December 2009, he was executive editor of Taki's Magazine.
In January 2011, Spencer became Executive Director of Washington Summit Publishers. In 2012, Spencer founded Radix Journal as a biannual publication of Washington Summit Publishers. Contributions have included articles by Kevin B. MacDonald, Alex Kurtagić, and Samuel T. Francis (1947–2005). He also hosts a weekly podcast, Vanguard Radio.
In January 2011, Spencer also became President and Director of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a think tank previously based in Virginia and Montana. George Hawley, an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Alabama, has described NPI as "rather obscure and marginalized" until Spencer became its president.
In 2014, Spencer was deported from Budapest, Hungary (and because of the Schengen Agreement, is banned from 26 countries in Europe for three years) after trying to organize the National Policy Institute Conference, a conference for white nationalists.
On January 15, 2017 (Martin Luther King. Jr.'s birthday), Spencer launched AltRight.com, another commentary website for alt-right members. According to Spencer, the site is a populist and big tent site for members of the alt-right. Swedish publisher Daniel Friberg of Arktos Media is co-founder and European editor of the site. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the common thread among contributors as antisemitism, rather than white nationalism or white supremacism in general. Notable contributors on AltRight.com include Henrik Palmgren and Jared Taylor.
On February 23, 2017, Spencer was removed from the Conservative Political Action Conference where he was giving statements to the press. A CPAC spokesman said he was removed from the event because other members found him "repugnant".
On May 13, 2017, Spencer led a torch-lit protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, against the vote of the city council to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War. Spencer led the crowd in chants of "You will not replace us" and "Blood and soil." Michael Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville, called the protest "horrific" and stated that it was either "profoundly ignorant" or intended to instill fear among minorities "in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK."
In August 2017, Spencer was listed on posters promoting the Charlottesville, Virginia, Unite the Right rally, which devolved into a notorious and violent confrontation.
In November 2017, Twitter removed from Spencer's account the blue check mark that, reported The Washington Post, "the company gives to prominent accounts to help readers ensure they are authentic." Spencer told The Post he was worried this would lead to Twitter banning people like him.
During a speech Spencer gave in mid-November 2016 at an alt-right conference attended by approximately 200 people in Washington, D.C., Spencer quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German and denounced Jews. Audience members cheered and made the Nazi salute when he said, "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!" and extended his right arm with a glass to toast that victory. Spencer later defended their conduct, stating that the Nazi salute was given in a spirit of "irony and exuberance". It was later revealed that Spencer had made the Nazi Salute at a karaoke bar in April 2016.
Groups and events Spencer has spoken to include the Property and Freedom Society, the American Renaissance conference, and the HL Mencken Club. In November 2016, an online petition to prevent Spencer from speaking at Texas A&M University on December 6, 2016 was signed by thousands of students, employees, and alumni. A protest and a university-organized counter-event were held to coincide with Spencer's event.
On January 20, 2017, Spencer attended the inauguration of Donald Trump. As he was giving an impromptu interview on a nearby street afterwards, a masked man punched Spencer in the face, then fled. A video of the incident was posted online, leading to divergent views on whether the attack was appropriate.
Shortly after the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, the University of Florida denied Spencer's request for a September 2017 speaking opportunity, citing public safety grounds after opposition from students and locals of Gainesville, Florida. Due to safety reasons, he was also denied speaking requests at Louisiana State University and Michigan State University in August 2017. In September 2017, Cameron Padgett, who tried to book Spencer, sued MSU; he was represented by Kyle Bristow, an MSU alumnus.
Speech at University of Florida
After the University of Florida's August 2017 denial of Spencer's request to speak the following month, Floridian lawyer Gary Edinger threatened to sue the university for violating the First Amendment by prohibiting Spencer from speaking despite being a publicly funded institution. The university subsequently reached an agreement with Edinger allowing Spencer to speak on October 19, 2017. Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County on October 16, saying "I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent" as a result of Spencer's appearance.
On October 19, 2017, Spencer spoke at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on university grounds. In addition to Spencer, the speakers included Eli Mosley of Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group from California, and Mike Enoch, a white nationalist blogger. The event's security costs reportedly amounted to an estimated $600,000. It drew about 2,500 protestors, vastly outnumbering Spencer's supporters.
The speech, which was Spencer's first public appearance after the Charlottesville rally, was disrupted by loud protests. When drowned out by chants from the audience, he grew visibly frustrated, stating that the protestors were interfering with his freedom of speech. He added: "you are all engaged in what’s known as the heckler's veto.” According to Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, non-violent protesting, booing and suggesting that the speaker leave was not a heckler's veto in law. The speech and the concurrent protests were largely peaceful.
Later that day, three of Spencer's supporters were arrested on felony charges following an alleged discharge of a firearm, directed at protestors leaving the event. The three suspects were residents of Texas who had travelled to Florida to hear Spencer speak. According to the Gainesville Police Department, they had shouted “Hail Hitler” and gave Nazi salutes immediately before the alleged attack. Authorities said that two of the suspects had known links to extremist groups. The men had participated in the August 2017 Unite the Right rally, where Spencer had been scheduled to speak. All three were charged with attempted homicide.
In the aftermath of the October 19 events, Ohio State University declined Spencer's request to allow him to speak on campus, citing "substantial risk to public safety". In response, a lawyer representing Spencer's associate and organizer of his speaking tour filed a lawsuit against the university.
In 2013, a dispute at a ski club in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, drew public attention to Spencer and his political views.
In 2014, a pro-tolerance group affiliated with the Montana Human Rights Network rallied against Spencer's residency in Whitefish. In response, the city council approved a non-discrimination resolution.
In December 2016, Republican Representative Ryan Zinke, Republican Senator Steve Daines, Democratic Senator Jon Tester, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock and Republican Attorney General Tim Fox condemned a neo-Nazi march that had been planned for January 2017. The community of Whitefish organized in opposition to the event, and the march never occurred.
Race and ethnicity
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Spencer has advocated for a white homeland for a "dispossessed white race" and called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing" to halt the "deconstruction" of European culture. To this end he has supported what he has called "the creation of a White Ethno-State on the North American continent", an "ideal" that he has regarded as a "reconstitution of the Roman Empire." Prior to the UK vote to leave the EU, Spencer expressed support for the multi-national bloc "as a potential racial empire" and an alternative to "American hegemony", stating that he has "always been highly skeptical of so-called 'Euro-Skeptics.'"
In 2013, the Anti-Defamation League called Spencer a leader in white supremacist circles and said that after leaving The American Conservative he rejected conservatism, because he believed its adherents "can't or won't represent explicitly white interests."
In one interview in which he was asked if he would condemn the KKK and Adolf Hitler, he refused by saying "I’m not going to play this game," while stating that Hitler had "done things that I think are despicable," without elaborating on which things he was referring to.
Spencer supports legal access to abortion, in part because he believes it would reduce the number of black and Hispanic people, which he says would be a "great boon" to white people. He supports single-payer healthcare because he believes it would benefit white people.
Spencer supported Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and called Trump's election "the victory of will," a phrase evoking the title of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935), a Nazi-era propaganda film. Upon Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist and senior counselor, Spencer said Bannon would be in "the best possible position" to influence policy.
During the 2016 United States presidential election, Spencer tweeted that women should not be allowed to make foreign policy. He also stated in an interview with the Washington Post that his vision of America as an ethnostate included women returning to traditional roles as childbearers and homemakers. In October 2017, when asked his opinion on American women having the right to vote, he said "I don't necessarily think that that’s a great thing" after stating that he was "not terribly excited" about voting in general.
In 2010, Spencer moved to Whitefish, Montana. He says he splits his time between Whitefish and Arlington, Virginia, although he has said he has lived in Whitefish for over 10 years, and considers it home. As of 2017 Spencer was renting a house in Alexandria, Virginia.
He was separated from his Georgian-Russian American wife, Nina Kouprianova, in October 2016; however, in April 2017 Spencer said he and his wife were not separated and are still together. Kouprianova has translated several books written by Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian political analyst known for his fascist views. The books were later published by Spencer's publishing house, Washington Summit Publishers.
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- "Campus clashes as US white supremacist gives speech." London Evening Standard [London, England], 7 Dec. 2016, p. 22. "Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with riot police at a protest against a white supremacist's speech at a leading American university. Richard Spencer, who gained notoriety for holding a so-called "alt-right" meeting celebrating Donald Trump's election triumph with Nazi rhetoric, told students attending the speech at the Texas A&M University last night: 'At the end of the day, America belongs to white men.'"
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In 2011, he moved from Washington to Whitefish, Montana, where his mother owns a vacation home and a commercial building. (She is the heiress to cotton farms in Louisiana, and his father is a respected Dallas ophthalmologist.)
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He was born in Massachusetts but moved to the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas when he was about 2 years old.
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Despite the innocuous name, NPI has since its inception been a white-nationalist organization. The organization was rather obscure and marginalized until Spencer was chosen as its new president in 2011, at which point Alternative Right became an NPI initiative.
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In 2010 and 2011, leaders of the now defunct racist student group, Youth for Western Civilization, invited Spencer to speak at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and Providence College in Rhode Island.
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In 2010, Saucier’s group invited Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who has since become a prominent member of the pro-Trump “alt-Right,” to speak.
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“Hitler is a historical figure,” he said. “He’s done things that I think are despicable. I’m not going to play this game.”
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Audience Member: Your ex-wife is a Russian American and you have a child together. Please explain that. Spencer: She's not my ex-wife. Audience Member: Or you're separated, right? Spencer: No. Audience Member: Okay, so the thing I said is that you are separated or whatever. So you're still together? Spencer: Yes
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McAfee: Are you religious? Do you support the Separation of Church and State? Spencer: I’m an atheist.
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Martin: Are you a Christian? Spencer: I’m an cultural Christian.