Imagine that a nominee for secretary of state had shared platforms with white nationalist Richard B. Spencer and been given a major award by his National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States and around the world.” With that on his record, is it likely the nominee would have been confirmed, or nominated in the first place, to head the State Department?
Or what if someone under consideration for a top White House job had written an admiring foreword for a book by Holocaust denier David Irving or perhaps one by the psychologist and alt-right sympathizer Kevin MacDonald, who describes Jews as “a hostile, adversary elite” conducting “ethnic war” against Christianity and “traditional institutions of European-American culture”? Would such an endorsement keep him from being named as the president’s national security adviser?
While those are hypothetical questions, there can’t be much doubt about the answers. Views like Spencer’s (“This country does belong to white people, culturally, politically, socially, everything. We defined what America is”) and MacDonald’s (“Given Jewish influence over the political process… it is vitally important for those of us attempting to reverse White dispossession to understand this, to call attention to it, and to combat it”) certainly have a following, but are broadly seen as inconsistent with mainstream American values and beyond the borders of acceptable public discourse.
A Double Standard on Bigotry
When Muslims are the target of bigotry, however, the reaction is quite different. Evidence of that double standard abounds. Consider Brigitte Gabriel, not quite a household name but a leading voice in the Islamophobic choir. Gabriel, whose organization ACT for America is one of the most active and visible anti-Muslim groups in this country, has maintained longstanding and warm relations with various high-ranking political figures, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In rhetoric that is very similar in tone and logic to that of the white nationalists, Gabriel argues that the people she disparages are not true Americans: “A practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day—this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
Pompeo not only delivered speeches at ACT conferences while a member of Congress, but arranged for the group to give a presentation at the Capitol and, in 2016, received its highest award. He faced some sharp questioning in his Senate hearing about those connections, but did not repudiate either Gabriel’s views or those of her organization and yet his association with her did not derail his confirmation as the nation’s top diplomat.