Multiple people close to Donald Trump have direct ties to white supremacists. Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has admitted he recently hosted white nationalist publisher, Peter Brimelow, at a birthday celebration at his home. Brimelow founded the anti-immigrant website VDARE.com. Meanwhile, Trump’s speechwriter Darren Beattie was fired last Friday as revelations surfaced that he had spoken at a conference alongside prominent white nationalists, including Brimelow, in 2016. Beattie was a panelist at the H.L. Mencken Club conference, an event the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a gathering of “white nationalists and pseudo-academic and academic racists.” We speak with Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We end the hour looking at how multiple people close to Donald Trump have direct ties to white supremacists. President Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has admitted he recently hosted white nationalist publisher Peter Brimelow at a birthday celebration at his home. Brimelow founded the anti-immigrant website VDARE.com. Meanwhile, Trump’s speechwriter Darren Beattie was fired last Friday as revelations surfaced that he had spoken at a conference alongside prominent white nationalists, including Brimelow, in 2016. Beattie was a panelist at the H.L. Mencken Club conference, an event the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a gathering of, quote, “white nationalists and pseudo-academic and academic racists.”
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Montgomery, Alabama, where we’re joined by Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Richard. Talk about these latest developments.
RICHARD COHEN: Well, I don’t think they’re entirely surprising, Amy. You know, we’ve seen a real cross-fertilization between some hardcore people in the anti-immigrant movement and the Trump administration—you know, Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller—and now these revelations. So, you know, it’s a reflection of Trump, his policies and his heart. These people aren’t renegades. You know, they are not people who weaseled their way into the the administration and corrupted Trump. They reflect his views. He chose them because of their views. And I think it’s a sad state of affairs.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about who Darren Beattie—
RICHARD COHEN: Can I say one thing about Mr.—
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about who Darren Beattie was, speaking at the H.L. Mencken conference, and what that was.
RICHARD COHEN: Sure. The H.L. Mencken conference is, you know, kind of an incubator for “alt-right” ideas. People like—you know, Richard Spencer was its founder, was one of its founders. They have an assortment of, you know, kind of academic racists who speak there every year, including people like Peter Brimelow.
And it’s quite incredible that Darren Beattie, a speechwriter for Mr. Trump, would have been there in 2016. You know, he gave a speech that was really music to the ears, I’m sure, of his audience. It was very Trumpy. It was kind of an anti-globalist speech. He talked about globalism as, you know, kind of being one of the things that was responsible for the errors, as he put it, of immigration. And he talked about movement conservatism being dead and a new form of right-wing intelligentsia emerging. And I know that that was music to the ears of the racists who listened him.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Richard Cohen, can you explain who—I mean, Stephen Miller is, of course, still in the Trump administration. And explain what VDARE is.
RICHARD COHEN: Well, VDARE is a website that Brimelow started. And really, it’s a publishing platform for white nationalists, people like Jared Taylor, someone who said that black people weren’t capable of forming a civilization, someone who said that—he was the spokesperson for the organization from which Dylann Roof drew the idea that there was a genocide afoot against white people. So, I mean, I think it’s been a mouthpiece for the radical right, white nationalism, anti-Semitism, for almost 20 years now.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about—
RICHARD COHEN: Let me mention one thing. Let me mention—
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.
RICHARD COHEN: I was mentioning one thing about Brimelow, as well. Brimelow was actually someone that Stephen Miller and Richard Spencer brought to Duke University when they were both students there. Miller was an undergraduate. Stephen—Spencer was a graduate student. And some people say, and there’s some evidence for it, that Spencer was kind of a mentor for Stephen Miller during that time.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And where do you see this going, Richard Cohen? I mean, you’ve expressed concerns about, obviously, the white nationalists who are in the White House, but talk about what’s been going on outside, as well, I mean, in different places around the country.
RICHARD COHEN: Well, you know, I’m more concerned, of course, with white nationalism within the administration than I am outside of it. After Charlottesville, we saw some of the players who had been prominent there, you know, kind of retreat into the background from the bad publicity response as a result of Heather Heyer’s death. We saw the tech industry clamp down on them. And at the same time, we saw new emerging elements of the white supremacist movement come to the fore, particularly in the Northwest, places like Portland and Seattle, with the rise of a group called the Proud Boys.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about what happened on a recent tweet, Trump tweeting, “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.” Then he quoted Fox News’ Tucker Carlson saying, “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and the far-right anti-immigrant website VDARE.com retweeted the president, along with messages about “white genocide.” The South African government—
RICHARD COHEN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —then responded, and they wrote, quote, “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.” Again, this coming just after Trump’s speechwriter fired, after it was revealed he had spoken at a white supremacist conference. Talk about this latest attack on South Africa and what it means.
RICHARD COHEN: Well, look, Trump has a history of tweeting racist themes, racist ideas. The idea that he would pick out South Africa, from all the countries that have problems in the world, is quite incredible. You might remember Dylann Roof, the person who massacred nine people in a church in Charleston, had the emblem of the former South African regime on his coat, as well as the emblem of the former regime in Rhodesia. And, of course, he believed that there was a white genocide afoot. So, Trump tweeting this kind of thing is, again, really playing into the hands and energizing the radical right, as evidenced by the tweets of people like David Duke, that you mentioned.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, he tweeted this right after there was a segment on Fox News. Finally, we just spoke with Professor Johnson in North Carolina—
RICHARD COHEN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —the only African-American woman dissenting vote on keeping the Confederate monuments. On this first anniversary of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the vote to keep these monuments, you have done so much work at the Southern Poverty Law Center on the significance of these monuments. And they voted to keep these monuments on the Capitol grounds in North Carolina two days after the students at UNC toppled the Confederate monument there, Silent Sam.
RICHARD COHEN: Yeah. You know, there are probably about 1,500 Confederate monuments, markers, even some Army bases named after Confederate generals. And it’s really—the country needs to come to terms with this racist past. I mean, these monuments were raised or erected as basically a celebration of white supremacy at the turn of the last century, and then again during the height of massive resistance to desegregation in the ’50s and ’60s. They ought to come down.
AMY GOODMAN: There are even 10 U.S. military bases, as you point out, named for Confederate military heroes, so-called.
RICHARD COHEN: And these people were—these people were treasonous folk. They were fighting against the United States. So the idea that we name military bases after them is incredible. And, of course, it’s a reflection of the power of the Southern senators in a bygone era.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us, Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
That does it for our broadcast. A very happy birthday to Julie Crosby! Democracy Now! has a job opening for a full-time broadcast engineer here in our New York City studios. Find out more at democracynow.org.