The first week of Donald Trump Jr.’s tour to promote his new book was marked by protests stemming from a brewing civil war between two different right-wing political factions.
Trump Jr. was appearing at UCLA on Sunday with his girlfriend, conservative commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle, in an event sponsored by the far-right activist group Turning Point USA. His talk was interrupted by hecklers demanding that he take questions.
Trump Jr.’s book is titled “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” It is both a paean to the leadership of his father and a complaint that conservative viewpoints are stifled in the media and on campus.
“Name a time when conservatives have disrupted even the furthest leftist on a college campus,” he said. “It doesn’t happen that way. We’re willing to listen.”
One member of the audience, which had been chanting for the president’s eldest son to answer questions, shouted, “Then open the Q&A!”
“See what I mean?” said Trump. “And that is the problem. And the reason oftentimes it doesn’t make sense to do the Q&A is not because we’re not willing to talk about the questions, ’cause we do. No. It’s because people hijack it with nonsense looking to go for some sort of sound bite. You have people spreading nonsense, spreading hate, trying to take over the room.”
Guilfoyle admonished the crowd for being rude, before insinuating they were losers who couldn’t get a date: “Let me tell you something, I bet you engage and go on online dating, because you’re impressing no one here to get a date in person.”
In recent years left-wing protesters have disrupted talks by author Charles Murray, whose views on race and IQ have been denounced as racist by some. But the threat of protests by conservatives led Harvard and Catholic University of America to rescind speaking invitations to, respectively, intelligence whistleblower Chelsea Manning and progressive author and priest Rev. James Martin.
In fact, although there was a protest of Trump Jr.’s speech planned by a progressive group called RefuseFascism.org, the heckling, according to reporters, came from a group that aligns to the right of Turning Point USA.
The Guardian reported that Trump and Guilfoyle walked out 20 minutes into an event scheduled for two hours. In a statement to Yahoo News, a spokesperson for Turning Point USA, which focuses on outreach to younger Americans, said the event wasn’t cut short.
“This was a Turning Point USA event and it was our organization’s decision to cancel the Q&A portion days before after we were made aware of a pre-planned effort to disrupt the event. The event was not cut short or ended early, as in lieu of the Q&A we simply extended the amount of time given to our VIP’s for their remarks.”
According to the Guardian, “A number of the loudest voices at Sunday’s event were supporters of Nick Fuentes, a 21-year-old activist with a podcast called America First that has taken particular aim at Turning Point USA and its 25-year-old founder, Charlie Kirk.”
In March 2017, Fuentes, then a freshman at Boston University, was featured in a Boston Globe profile of “a new sect of young conservatives” who seized on President Trump’s political rise to parlay their own “inflammatory speech into mainstream celebrity.”
Fuentes left Boston University later that year amid backlash over his participation in, and praise for, the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., where clashes between white nationalist demonstrators and counterprotesters turned deadly.
But Fuentes and America First appear to have gained influence with largely college-age fans of Fuentes’s hard-line anti-immigrant and white nationalist views, emerging as an alternative to relatively more mainstream conservative groups like Turning Point USA, which has sought to publicly distance itself from white supremacists while soliciting more diverse support.
On Twitter, Fuentes praised Sunday’s protest at UCLA as a “huge victory” for America First.
“Our problem is not with @DonaldJTrumpJr who is a patriot— We are supporters of his father!” Fuentes explained in a Twitter thread. “Our problem is with Charlie Kirk’s TPUSA organization that SHUTS DOWN and SMEARS socially conservative Christians and supporters of President Trump’s agenda.”
Our problem is not with @DonaldJTrumpJr who is a patriot— We are supporters of his father!— Nicholas J. Fuentes (@NickJFuentes) November 10, 2019
Our problem is with Charlie Kirk’s TPUSA organization that SHUTS DOWN and SMEARS socially conservative Christians and supporters of President Trump’s agenda.
We are AMERICA FIRST!
Fuentes called Kirk a “fake conservative” who “promotes the LGBT agenda” and “supports immigration policies that hurt the American worker.”
“President Trump’s agenda has been subverted from the beginning by people in his White House or inner circle who didn’t vote for him, aren’t loyal to him, & actively oppose his policies,” he continued. “They are the Globalist GOP swamp trying to recapture the party from Trump and his voters!”
Lawrence Rosenthal, chair of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said the protest at UCLA was actually indicative of the so-called alt-right’s unhappiness with Trump.
Rosenthal said this dissatisfaction with the president, who early on was viewed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis as a “vehicle” for their racist agenda, first became clear earlier this year, when Trump agreed to end the government shutdown without securing funding for his border wall.
“They were really unhappy about that, as though Trump had crossed the line in terms of being a real nationalist in their view, which is to say a racist nationalist,” said Rosenthal. He compared the frustrations among Trump’s alt-right supporters to the unhappiness with mainstream Republicans that gave rise to the tea party.
He described their view as: “We gave you our support and we knew that you weren’t of us, but you backed down on one too many things.” Rosenthal suggested that the protest on Sunday demonstrated how many “among the racist, proto-fascist right” view the future of their movement, independent from Trump.
“There is this notion among them that the cat has been let out of the bag with Trump’s victory, so that their kind of white nationalism can return to being a force in mainstream politics,” he said.
TPUSA has faced repeated allegations of racial bias among its staffers. In 2017, the organization’s national field director, Crystal Clanton, was fired for sending texts to another staffer that said, “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like f*** them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.” Before she was fired, Kirk, TPUSA’s head, had said of Clanton, “Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America.” HuffPost reported that the group forced out the Midwest regional manager over bigoted language in texts and tweets in 2018. The group cut ties with the leader of the Las Vegas chapter earlier this year when a video surfaced of her promoting white power and using a racial slur about African-Americans. The Southern Poverty Law Center has referred to TPUSA as having a “blooming romance” with the alt-right, while another conservative youth group, the Young America’s Foundation, has accused TPUSA of using racists to boost its numbers.
Trump Jr.’s appearance wasn’t the first TPUSA event to be disrupted by America First protesters. At an event last Friday at Arizona State University, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, was met with shouts, insults and hostile questions about immigration and U.S.-Israeli relations during a talk that was supposed to be about the dangers of socialism.
“You know what’s funny about you guys? You operate exactly like the far left,” Crenshaw told the crowd, adding, “You engage in victim identity politics. It’s pathetic.”
According to a report from the State Press, the ASU student newspaper, multiple attendees blamed Fuentes for the disruption.
“Dan Crenshaw is my biggest political idol,” freshman Christian Merante told the Press. “There were all these far-right anti-Semites, and I didn’t even get to ask the question I really wanted to ask because there were cameras facing me, there were people shoving, people screaming … it was just crazy. It destroyed my moment with Dan Crenshaw, and I started crying.”
Last month a TPUSA “Culture War” event at Ohio State University, featuring Kirk, found its question-and-answer period besieged by questions on immigration, homosexuality and white nationalism.
“How does anal sex help us win the culture war?” asked one attendee, who was cut off by Rob Smith, a black, gay conservative who was onstage with Kirk.
“Can you prove that our white European ideals can be maintained if the country’s majority is no longer made up of white European descendants?” asked one man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
“There were a number of trolls who sabotaged the Q&A portion of tonight’s @tpusa event,” wrote TPUSA official Benny Johnson on Twitter after the event. “Many of the questions were abhorrent and were not asked in good faith. White nationalism and anti-gay hatred have no place in our movement. This is what the Left wants. It’s time to Wake Up.”
Fuentes has already directed some of his ire at conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who used a speech earlier this month to attack the America First movement. (Shapiro has his own history of racist statements aimed toward African-Americans and Arabs.) Fuentes has demanded that Shapiro debate him, the same tactic Shapiro has used toward a number of people on the left, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
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