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Spokane GOP chairwoman defends alt-right provocateur James Allsup at tea party meeting

UPDATED: Tue., July 31, 2018, 9:28 p.m.

The chairwoman of the Spokane County Republican Party offered a defense of James Allsup during a meeting of local conservatives this month, claiming the 22-year-old alt-right provocateur – whose views have been widely condemned as racist – was a victim of “label lynching” by the political left and the mainstream media.

GOP Chairwoman Cecily Wright introduced Allsup, a former leader of the College Republicans chapter at Washington State University, during a July 11 meeting of the tea party group Northwest Grassroots, which was attended by Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase and Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins, among others.

Most recently, Allsup has been affiliated with a group called Identity Evropa, which promotes a vision of America dominated by white people and is classified by the Anti-Defamation League as a white supremacist group. He and other members of the group openly advocate a strategy they call “entryism,” meaning they should infiltrate old establishments like the Republican Party to spread their message. Allsup’s appearance at the Northwest Grassroots meeting has drawn criticism from activist organizations in Spokane, Seattle and Portland, and from various Republican leaders.

“How many of you have heard the term ‘label lynching?’ Sorta crazy, isn’t it?” Wright says in a video of her presentation posted by the Northwest Grassroots YouTube account. “And yet, when you look at a website such as the SPLC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or listen to your news commentators, they hang labels on people – constitutionalists, conservatives, Trumpsters, deplorables, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, all those.”

She continues: “If I started saying something about you, that you were a white supremist (sic), and you could say because so-and-so and such-and-such happened, and other people pick it up, and then if the news media picks it up, you’re dead meat, and it’s pretty darn sad. And people’s lives are destroyed with these labels that are being hung on them because we don’t take time to really figure out, is it true or is it not true? What is the purpose behind labeling a person a certain way or not?”

Then, Wright says, “I have a gentleman here this evening who has been label-lynched.” Before Allsup stands before the camera to speak, Wright plays a recording of a speech he gave introducing Donald Trump during a 2016 campaign rally in Everett. At the time, Allsup said Trump would “take our country back from the globalists and the corrupt politicians.” He did not mention his views on race as he has in more recent speeches, interviews, YouTube videos and social media posts.

“Did you just hear anybody that you disagree with in the video?” Wright asks her audience. “Absolutely not.”

Finally, Allsup delivers a roughly 15-minute speech in which he discusses the election and his involvement in the infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which he claims was “totally misrepresented in the media.”

He claims the media has mislabeled him: “It was racist, sexist, bigot, xenophobe, transphobe – all the labels under the sun.” And he falsely claims journalists never asked him to explain his views on immigration, the border wall and other issues.

“They don’t want to talk about the ideas because they know if they get into the argument, if they get into the debate, they’ll lose,” Allsup says. “If they have to make the case for why they’re right, they’ll lose every time.”

He also claims the political left is synonymous with independent media organizations including The Spokesman-Review, the Inlander and the Daily Beast, which published a story about Allsup in early June after he was elected as a precinct committee officer of the Whitman County Republican Party.

Later in the video, Allsup makes an unfounded claim that American wages are dropping because of immigration, and says that “illegals are pouring across the border,” although apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border remain well below average, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures dating to 2000.

“On social issues,” Allsup adds, “you have transgenders teaching your kids, you have the gay agenda everywhere, you have all this social degradation going on.”

In past interviews, when asked about his views on race, Allsup has pointed to the works of Richard Lynn, a British professor who for 50 years has employed eugenics to explain racial and gender inequality. Lynn asserts that men, whites and Asians are genetically superior groups, and the wealth and power of nations depends on their racial “homogeneity.”

Wright was elected to lead the Spokane County GOP by precinct committee officers in the spring following the resignation of former Chairwoman Stephanie Cates. In early June, after Allsup became a Whitman County committee officer, Wright condemned his views in an official statement bearing GOP letterhead.

“Mr. Allsup has never been affiliated in any official capacity with the Spokane County GOP,” the statement read. “His past statements, affiliations and actions are deeply out-of-step with the values of the Republican Party, as well as the values of the Spokane County GOP and our members.”

Speaking of Allsup, Wright even joked to an Inlander reporter in June: “I’d like to go punch the guy in the nose myself.”

In a brief phone call Tuesday, Wright said her husband was the one who invited Allsup to speak at the Northwest Grassroots meeting. Asked if she was familiar with Allsup’s past statements and his affiliation with groups like Identity Evropa, Wright said she had not taken a comprehensive look.

“I have not looked over them all,” she said. “I did not investigate James Allsup. I know how he is portrayed, and he is not someone that I affiliate with.”

After ending the interview, Wright wrote a lengthy Facebook post in which she apologized for Allsup’s appearance, calling it “a lesson to more thoroughly research individuals before giving them a platform to speak.”

“Northwest Grassroots is a group, independent of the Republican Party that does not shy away from controversial subjects,” she wrote. “Mr. Allsup reached out to my husband, John Charleston, the head of NW Grassroots, to discuss what he feels is an untrue characterization of him as a white supremacist.”

After some discussion, she wrote, her husband felt that Allsup had been misrepresented and allowed him to speak at the meeting “to dispel the label he has been identified with as a racist and white supremacist – a chance to defend and explain himself.”

“As you can see from the video I did not praise him, I did speak about the need to do research before accepting what is said about people,” she wrote. “Allsup did speak but did NOT denounce the vile, racist views he is associated with as was expected.”

At the end of the video, however, Wright can be heard telling Allsup, “OK, well I really appreciate you.”

In a joint statement Tuesday, community and civil rights organizations from Spokane, Seattle and Portland called attention to the Northwest Grassroots video and demanded that Washington Republicans condemn Allsup. The groups said they are planning to stage a protest at 5:30 p.m. Thursday outside the Spokane County Courthouse.

“We cannot take for granted the integrity of our public officials when they denounce white nationalism in the press, while privately endorsing their leaders and values,” the Rev. Walter Kendricks, a spokesman and co-founder of Spokane Community Against Racism, said in the statement. “We can’t reasonably assume public officials will uphold our rights when they applaud those who would harm us.”

Liz Moore, director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, added: “Our Spokane region has a strong track record of standing up against white nationalism. Together, we’ve defeated the Aryan Nations; we’ve defeated anti-immigrant, anti-gay and anti-trans policies; and we’re committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with targeted communities to defeat this harmful ideology anytime it tries to gain a foothold.”

Caleb Heimlich, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, also criticized Allsup’s appearance at the meeting in a statement Tuesday.

“It’s disappointing that a member of county party leadership would provide someone like James Allsup a platform for defending his radical, hateful views – views that are completely antithetical to the core values of the Republican Party,” Heimlich said. “We respond to James Allsup the same way we have responded each time he attempts to use the prestige of the Republican Party brand as a vehicle of self-promotion. We condemn his ideology and his discriminatory viewpoints in the strongest possible manner.”

In an email, Jared Powell, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers pointed to past public statements in which the Republican 5th District congresswoman has condemned Allsup.

“Cathy has been very clear with how she feels about James Allsup,” Powell wrote. “She believes white supremacy has no place anywhere in America and that we must come together as fellow human beings to end bigotry and violence. She was not in any way affiliated with the event in this video and is disappointed anyone would give a microphone to James to amplify his hateful views.”

Republican Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Northwest Grassroots represents a faction of the Spokane County GOP allied with state Rep. Matt Shea. The two elected leaders have been feuding for years. In 2016, Shea asserted on his podcast that a sheriff’s deputy had provided the gun used in a triple homicide in Colbert; he was repeating claims made in a Facebook post by Michael “Scott” Maclay, an anti-Muslim con man and conspiracy theorist who recently changed his name to DumpOzzie Dot Com and filed to run against Knezovich in this year’s election.

“That group is a Matt Shea group, and they don’t necessarily like me all that much,” Knezovich said of Northwest Grassroots. “When they started saying that (Allsup) might get invited to speak, I strongly advised against it because he doesn’t stand for anything that the GOP should be associated with.”

In a phone call Tuesday, Higgins, the Spokane Valley mayor, said Northwest Grassroots meetings happen about once a month and usually draw around 50 attendees.

“I wouldn’t say there’s been anything untoward or anything radical,” he said.

Higgins said he could not comment on Allsup’s views because he knows very little about him.

“Leading up to the meeting, I don’t think I’d even heard of him,” Higgins said. As for those groups that decried Allsup’s appearance at the meeting, Higgins said, “If they’re looking for things to be offended about, I’d think there are probably things of more substance.”

Chase, who is wrapping up his second term as treasurer and challenging fellow Republican Mary Kuney for a seat on the Spokane County Commission, also said he knew little about Allsup. He said he only recognized Allsup as the student who spurred controversy at WSU by erecting a plywood “border wall” in the center of the Pullman campus in October 2016.

“I think it was like guerrilla theater,” Chase said. “They built a wall or something down at WSU and some of the other students got upset about it.”


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