tags: Press Releases

Mainstreaming White Nationalist Hate is Deadly as Pittsburgh Synagogue Murder Conviction Reminds Us

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Washington, DC – Last Friday, a jury convicted a white nationalist on 63 counts related to his 2018 attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 and wounded seven others – the deadliest anti-semitic incident in U.S. history. As the Washington Post reported after the verdict, the shooter was motivated by the false and vile “replacement theory”:

“[Tree of Life shooter’s] defense team, which did not call any witnesses and introduced no evidence, did not dispute that he carried out the massacre. In her opening statement, public defender Judy Clarke suggested that [the shooter] was motivated to violence not because of a hatred of Jews, but rather because he feared that congregants were aiding immigrants, whom he considered a threat to Americans.”

As Amy Spitalnick, chief executive of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, assessed about the unfortunate aftermath following the Pittsburgh verdict (as captured by the Post): “the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue is ‘part of a broader cycle of right-wing extremism in which each attack inspires the next. And in the five years since Tree of Life, the white supremacist conspiracy theory behind it has been fully normalized in our politics and our society.’”

As a reminder, the Tree of Life shooting took place in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, during the height of President Trump and right wing media whipping up fears about alleged migrant caravans in Latin America being threats to America. 

According to Zachary Mueller, Political Director for America’s Voice: 

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s families and all in Pittsburgh affected by the deadliest anti-semitic attack in our nation’s history. We hope the verdict provides a measure of justice and aids the community’s ongoing healing.

Unfortunately, the deadly hate in Pittsburgh has not been an isolated incident nor spurred a broader and sufficient reckoning with the ways white nationalist conspiracies have been mainstreamed and platformed by right wing media and Republican elected officials. In fact, the same vile white nationalist conspiracy theories that spurred hate and killing in Pittsburgh have motivated other well-armed and unhinged men to commit similarly atrocious acts of violence in places such as Buffalo and El Paso in subsequent years.

And rather than being chastened or reined in by any of these deadly incidents of hate, the GOP has adopted these bigoted conspiracy theories as an organizing principle.  America’s Voice’s GOP message tracking project has found more than 550 examples of elected Republicans and GOP campaigns that employed white nationalist ‘invasion’ and ‘replacement’ conspiracies in just the little more than one year since the Buffalo shooting. This doesn’t even count the some two dozen examples from House GOP congressional hearings this year alone. All this at a time when domestic terrorism, including by white nationalists motivated by anti-immigrant animus, is listed as the greatest terrorist threat to our nation.”