Richard B. Spencer
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Richard Bertrand Spencer (born May 1978) is an American neo-Nazi, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, and white supremacist who is known for his activism on behalf of the alt-right movement in 2016 and 2017. Spencer calls for the reconstitution of the European Union into a white racial empire, which he believes will replace the diverse European ethnic identities with one homogeneous "white identity". The majority of European nations have banned Spencer and denounced his call for white racial empire. Poland in particular has repeatedly sought to ban Spencer from Europe, citing Spencer's Nazi rhetoric and the Nazis' genocide of Slavic people during World War II.
Richard B. Spencer
Richard Bertrand Spencer
1978 (age 42–43)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||St. Mark's School of Texas|
(m. 2010; div. 2018)
Spencer is known for his public advocacy of violence against nonwhites. He has advocated for the enslavement of Haitians by whites, the ethnic cleansing of racial minorities from the United States, and the ethnic cleansing of Turks from Anatolia. On the subject of neo-Nazism, Spencer has expressed admiration for the political tactics of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell. He was a featured speaker at the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, among other neo-Nazi rallies that Spencer has headlined.
Spencer's public persona was defined by his repeated, public use of Nazi rhetoric. In early 2016, Spencer was filmed giving the Nazi salute in a karaoke bar, and leaked footage also depicts Spencer giving the Sieg Heil salute to his supporters during the August 2017 Charlottesville rally. After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Spencer urged his supporters to "party like it's 1933," the year Hitler came to power in Germany. In the weeks following, Spencer quoted Nazi propaganda and denounced Jews. At a conference Spencer held celebrating the election, Spencer cried: "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!"; subsequently Mike Enoch led a number of Spencer's supporters in performing a Nazi salute and a chant similar to the Sieg Heil chant. In early-to-mid 2017, when Spencer's following was at its height, his supporters would reportedly give him the Sieg Heil salute when he entered a room.
Spencer has been involved in several legal issues. After the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, during which an alt-right supporter drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring at least 19 others, Spencer was sued for allegedly acting as a "gang boss" and inciting the killing. Three supporters of Spencer were charged with attempted homicide following his October 2017 speech at the University of Florida.
Richard Bertrand Spencer was born in 1978 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of ophthalmologist Rand Spencer and Sherry Spencer (née Dickenhorst), the heiress to cotton farms in Louisiana. He grew up in Preston Hollow, Dallas, Texas. Spencer attended St. Mark's School of Texas, then Colgate University for one year before transferring to the University of Virginia. In 2001, he 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. From the summer of 2005 into 2006, Spencer attended Vienna International Summer University. From 2005 to 2007, he was a PhD student in Modern European intellectual history at Duke University. He joined the Duke Conservative Union, where he met future President Trump's senior policy advisor Stephen Miller. His former website says he did not complete his PhD at Duke in order "to pursue a life of thought-crime".
From March to December 2007, Spencer was the assistant editor at The American Conservative magazine. According to founding editor Scott McConnell, he was fired from The American Conservative because his views were considered too extreme. Spencer spoke about the Duke lacrosse case and credits it with changing the course of his career. From January 2008 to December 2009, he served as the executive editor of Taki's Magazine, a libertarian online magazine published by Taki Theodoracopulos. He has claimed credit for coining the term alt-right in 2008 in order to differentiate himself from "mainstream American conservatism", although Paul Gottfried argues that both he and Spencer created the term.
In March 2010, Spencer founded AlternativeRight.com, a website he edited until 2012. In January 2011, he became the owner and executive director of Washington Summit Publishers. In January 2011, Spencer became president and director of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a white supremacist think tank based in Virginia. 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.
Spencer was invited to speak at Vanderbilt University in 2010 and Providence College in 2011 by Youth for Western Civilization. In 2012, he 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. He also hosts a weekly podcast, "Vanguard Radio."
In 2014, Spencer was deported from Budapest, Hungary. Under terms of the Schengen Agreement, he was banned for three years from 26 countries in Europe after trying to organize the National Policy Institute Conference, a conference for white nationalists.
Alt Right leader
On January 15, 2017, the day of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Spencer launched the AltRight Corporation and its website 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 of the United States describes the common thread among contributors as antisemitism, rather than white nationalism or white supremacy in general. Contributors to AltRight.com have included 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, he led a torch-lit protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, against the vote of the city council to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the commanding general 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 as an organizer on posters promoting the Charlottesville, Virginia, Unite the Right rally. It attracted counter-protesters, and violence broke out. One rightist drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one woman and wounding 30 so severely they needed treatment at hospital. In November 2017, Twitter removed from Spencer's account the blue checkmark 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. He later joined the social network Gab.
In November 2019, Milo Yiannopolous released an audio recording allegedly of Spencer using racist slurs immediately after the 2017 Unite the Right rally. Spencer said he did not recall making the remarks, but did not deny the voice on the recording was his. On the tape, Spencer is heard saying "Little fucking kikes. They get ruled by people like me. Little fucking octaroons. My ancestors fucking enslaved those little pieces of fucking shit."
During a speech which Spencer gave in mid-November 2016 at an alt-right conference that was attended by approximately 200 people in Washington, D.C., Spencer quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German and denounced Jews. Audience members cheered and gave 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 given the Nazi salute at a karaoke bar in April 2016. Additionally, in 2017 Spencer reportedly pressured followers to give him the Sieg Heil salute when he entered a room. Leaked texts between Spencer and Eli Mosley indicate that those who refused to give the Nazi salute to Spencer, such as Jason Kessler, were stigmatized within the movement.
Groups and events which 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.
On August 16, during a television interview with Israeli Channel 2 anchor Danny Kushmaro, Spencer claimed that "Jews are vastly over-represented in... 'the establishment', that is, Ivy League educated people who really determine policy". Viewing Israel as an exclusionary ethnic state, he described his political position as "a white Zionist", who wants white people "to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves". Spencer has repeatedly used this argument over the years in speeches and interviews.
Spencer's National Policy Institute, David Duke, Stefan Molyneux, and American Renaissance magazine were among the white nationalist outlets banned by YouTube from their platform in late June 2020 for not following the platform's policies on hate speech.
Speech at the 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.
Opposition in Montana
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. Also in December 2016, Spencer announced he was considering an independent run for Montana's at-large congressional district in the 2017 special election, although he ultimately did not enter the race.
European Union bans
European governments and media have responded to his visits. During his speaking tour in Hungary in 2014, Spencer was mocked by the Hungarian newspaper Népszabadság for his call for "a white Imperium" through a revival of the Roman Empire, and for his claim to be a "racial European", ideas that the newspaper called contrived and without any basis in European history. In the aftermath of his visit, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pressed through legislative measures which banned his entry and condemned Spencer. The government of Poland has also banned him from entering the country and condemned Spencer, citing his Nazi rhetoric, the anti-Polish and anti-Slavic racism of the Nazis, and the Nazis' genocide of Slavic peoples during World War II. In July 2018, Spencer was detained at Keflavík Airport in Reykjavík, Iceland en route to Sweden and was ordered by Polish officials to return to the United States; the successful effort of the Poles to ban Spencer from other parts of Europe arises from the Schengen Agreement.
Spencer believes in white pride and the unification of a pan-European "white race" in a "potential racial empire" resembling the Roman Empire. In an interview with CNN, he was criticized for an apparent inconsistency or lack of clarity in his definition of white, with his interviewer saying that Spencer defined Syrians as white in the context of Steve Jobs's role in developing the iPhone, but described them as a non-white presence in Europe in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis.
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".
While being interviewed by David Pakman, he was asked if he would condemn the Ku Klux Klan 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 also admires George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, for using "shock as a positive means to an end".
In a 2016 interview for Time magazine, Spencer said he rejected white supremacy and the slavery of nonwhites, preferring to establish America as a white ethnostate. He also advocates the creation of a white ethnostate in Europe that would be open to all "racial Europeans". Jason Wilson in The Guardian has argued that Spencer and other white nationalists are appropriating some elements of socialist rhetoric to critique a "notion of capitalism centered on stereotypes of Jews".
According to political scientist Tamir Bar-On, Spencer defends "racialist and anti-Semitic agendas" of the Old Right under a new metapolitical guise, acting as a cultural influencer rather than a direct political actor, and using various media outlets to "disseminate his views to ordinary people in an accessible manner".
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 what he describes as "white 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'".
Spencer has been made frequent use of Nazi rhetoric in his public speeches. He called Donald Trump's 2016 presidential election "the victory of will", a phrase evoking the title of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935), a Nazi-era propaganda film. Spencer urged his supporters to "party like it's 1933," the year Hitler came to power in Germany. In the weeks following, Spencer quoted Nazi propaganda and denounced Jews.
At a conference Spencer held celebrating Trump's election, he mentioned the "mainstream media" in those terms: "or perhaps we should refer to them in the original German: Lügenpresse", meaning 'lying press' or 'press of lies', a term frequently used by Joseph Goebbels in Nazi propaganda. Spencer ended his speech with: "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!", and a number of his supporters gave the Nazi salute and chanted in a similar fashion to the Sieg Heil chant.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden
Spencer supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Following 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.
In November 2018, however, Spencer told his followers: "The Trump moment is over, and it's time for us to move on." The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that, around the same time, the white nationalist movement as a whole was dissatisfied with Trump's presidency.
In a July 2019 interview on CNN, he called Trump's tweet about four congresswomen (telling them to "go back" to where they came from) "racist". He believed Trump was practicing a "con game" in not clearly developing a white nationalist agenda as Trump "gives us nothing outside of racist tweets, and by racist tweets, I mean tweets that are meaningless and cheap".
In 2020, following the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Spencer said that he regretted voting for Trump. In August of that year, Spencer said that he planned to vote for Joe Biden and the straight Democratic ticket in the November election. "The MAGA/Alt-Right moment is over. I made mistakes; Trump is an obvious disaster; but mainly the paradigm contained flaws that we now are able to perceive. And it needs to end," Spencer wrote. "So be patient. We'll have another day in the sun. We need to recover and return in a new form." The Biden campaign renounced his support.
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 a white ethnostate includes 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.
Spencer opposes same-sex marriage, which he has described as "unnatural" and a "non-issue", commenting that "very few gay men will find the idea of monogamy to their liking". Despite his opposition to same-sex marriage, Spencer barred people with anti-gay views from the National Policy Institute's annual conference in 2015.
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. Spencer also supports a national single-payer health care system because he believes it would benefit white people.
Spencer is an atheist, although he also believes that the Christian church previously held some pragmatic value, because Spencer believes that it helped unify the white population of Europe. He opposes traditional Christian values as a moral code, due to the fact that Christianity is a universalizing religion, rather than an ethnic religion. Spencer references his views on Christianity as being influenced by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Citing Nietzsche's criticism of anti-Semitism and nationalism, Scott Galupo writing for The Week, Sean Illing for Vox, and Jordan Harris for The Courier-Journal have described Spencer's interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy as incorrect. Spencer's Radix Journal has promoted paganism, running titles such as "Why I am a pagan". Spencer has also described himself as a "cultural Christian".
Spencer criticized President Trump's administration for escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. In January 2020, Spencer tweeted: "To the people of Iran, there are millions of Americans who do not want war, who do not hate you, and who respect your nation and its history. After our traitorous elite is brought to justice, we hope to achieve peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness."
Spencer has advocated for the US pulling out of NATO, and called Russia the "sole white power in the world". His former partner, Nina Kouprianova, under her pen name Nina Byzantina referred to herself as a "Kremlin troll leader" and regularly aligned to Kremlin talking points, with ties to Aleksandr Dugin, a far-right ultranationalist Russian leader in the Eurasianism movement and writer of Foundations of Geopolitics. The webzine founded by Spencer in 2010, called Alternative Right, accepted direct contributor pieces from Dugin. Kouprianova has translated several books written by Dugin. The books were later published by Spencer's publishing house, Washington Summit Publishers.
In the late 2000s, Spencer was involved in the libertarian movement, supporting libertarian Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and hosting him at his discussion club, the Robert Taft Club. Spencer later disavowed libertarianism as incompatible with white nationalism, and in 2017 he came into conflict with libertarians after reportedly attempting to "crash" an International Students for Liberty conference.
According to political scientist Tamir Bar-On, "Spencer's key intellectual influences are largely those thinkers concerned with winning the 'cultural war' against egalitarianism, liberal democracy, capitalism, socialism, and multiculturalism," citing Nietzsche, the German Conservative Revolution (including Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, and Martin Heidegger), French New Right theorists like Alain de Benoist and Guillaume Faye, along with other far-right figures such as Julius Evola, Francis Parker Yockey, Aleksandr Dugin, and "US right-wingers with a penchant for race-driven politics or anti-Semitism" like Sam Francis, Jared Taylor, and Kevin B. MacDonald.
2020 legal case
In June 2020, the federal magistrate judge presiding over a civil rights lawsuit which stemmed from the violence at the Unite the Right rally in 2017, allowed Spencer's lawyer, John DiNucci, to withdraw from the case, on the grounds that Spencer owed DiNucci a significant amount in legal fees, and also was not cooperating with him in preparing the case. Spencer will represent himself. At the time of DiNucci's withdrawal, Spencer also faced a $500 fine and two weeks in a county jail in Montana if he did not pay over $60,000 he owed to the guardian ad litem representing his children's interests in Spencer's ongoing divorce proceedings there. Ultimately Spencer avoided going to jail after settling the debt.
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 an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. He moved out in August 2018. Prior to his marriage, Spencer's dating history included Asian women, which he has said predates his white nationalism, though this evaluation is disputed.
Spencer married Nina Kouprianova in 2010, with whom he has two children. He separated from Kouprianova, a Russian-Canadian with Georgian roots, in October 2016; in April 2017, Spencer said he and his wife were not separated and were still together.
In October 2018, Kouprianova accused him, in divorce documents, of multiple forms of abuse. Kouprianova provided hours of recordings and text messages to the press in order to substantiate her allegations. Court documents detailed emotional abuse, financial abuse, and violent physical abuse, including when Kouprianova was four months pregnant, and frequently in front of their children. According to media reports, the recordings and text messages show Spencer telling his wife that he will "fucking break [her] nose," encouraging her to commit suicide, and apologizing for previous incidents of physical abuse. A caregiver to the children testified in court about Spencer's abuses towards both her and Kouprianova. Spencer denied all allegations made against him, and was not charged with a crime.
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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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McAfee: Are you religious? Do you support the Separation of Church and State? Spencer: I'm an atheist.
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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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