Meet Paul Nehlen, the Hate-baiting Republican Trying to Unseat Paul Ryan

The controversial Republican has been filling his Twitter feed with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic memes popular with the alt-right movement

Paul Nehlen's Twitter page
Screenshot/@pnehlen

The lurch into overt anti-Semitism by Republican politician Paul Nehlen, the Wisconsin businessman challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan for his seat, was made complete on Monday when David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, hosted Nehlon on his radio show to discuss the backlash against the latter’s white supremacist views.

Nehlen told a sympathetic Duke that the “relentless attacks” against him happened because “Jews control the media,” a highlight that Duke emphasized when promoting the program on his Twitter feed.

Over the past several months, the far-right populist Republican has been grabbing headlines by filling his Twitter feed with racially charged, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic memes popular with the so-called alt-right movement, in the guise of what he defends as Christian and “pro-white” views.

In his appearance on Duke’s show, Nehlen told his host how “the gates of hell opened up” when he started acknowledging what he said was Jewish control of the world of politics, finance and media. He said that he has been “attacked relentlessly by folks who happen to be Jewish” ever since.

According to Nehlen, he arrived at his anti-Semitic perspective in Israel, on a trip he took after he was soundly beaten by Ryan - whom he condemned as “despicable” and “corrupt” in the Republican 2016 primaries in Wisconsin. In Israel, he said, “Messianic Jews” shared with him the anti-Semitic canard that “20 million Christians were killed by Jewish Soviet Bolsheviks,” and told him to read a book called “The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements.”

Nehlen’s endorsement of the book – which was written by Kevin McDonald, whose work has been dubbed “the broadest, ugliest, and most vicious anti-Semitism passing for scholarship” – unleashed a wave of criticism, most prominently by CNN’s Jake Tapper.

He recounted how following his appearance on the white-nationalist podcast “Fash the Nation,” Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon “said some terrible things” about him. Bannon had backed Nehlen in 2016 and the two men campaigned together in support of Alabama’s Judge Roy Moore, who Nehlen called a “fine Christian man.” By falling out with Bannon, he was banished from Breitbart, which he claimed “is run largely by Jewish folks,” and his writing was removed from the website.

He also described his Twitter fight with John Podhoretz, the Jewish pundit and editor of Commentary Magazine, who he said attacked him with “horrible tweets.” Nehlen then responded: “Do us all a favor, Podhoretz. Eat a bullet.” This triggered another avalanche of condemnation. Nehlen admitted his tweet to the editor and New York Post columnist may have been “inartful” but then called him “an evil, fat circus animal” who “demonstrates the worst traits of humanity.”

As before, Nehlen described his antagonists as “folks who happen to be Jewish.”

“We on the alt-right call that another ‘Cohen-cidence,’” Duke chuckled.

Until recently, the Anti-Defamation League had remained silent about Nehlen, declining to comment on an earlier Haaretz article about him. But last week, the group posted a critique on their website noting that Nehlen “is increasingly spewing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and unapologetically racist jargon.” The ADL statement came out on the same day that the Atlantic published an article headlined “Paul Nehlen is an Anti-Semitic Clown,” which described him as a politician who “loves being hated.”

Nehlen, Atlantic writer Emma Green observed, presented the political establishment and the media with the “impossible dilemma.” “To ignore his hate is to risk letting it spread and fester,” she wrote. “To loudly denounce it is to risk allowing him to co-opt the outrage for his own ends. Once made, the phenomenon exists; once fed, the troll grows. It becomes impossible not to talk about him – and impossible not to hate doing so.”

Following his appearance on the Duke radio show, Nehlen published a list on Twitter designed to back up his claim that the overwhelming majority of his critics were Jewish.

In response, Twitter users decided to mockNehlen’s list-making with the hashtag #OtherPaulNehlenLists.