About Paul Nehlen
Nehlen acts as an elder statesman for a group of white supremacists intent on pushing their movement in a terroristic direction. Experts on extremism sometimes refer to this supremacist philosophy as a “leaderless resistance,” built on sporadic bursts of violence such as mass shootings.
Nehlen is also an outspoken proponent of accelerationism, the idea that Western civilization must be pushed to collapse through acts of violence in order to bring about a non-Jewish, all-white country.
Nehlen, who as candidate for Congress once received a shout-out from Donald Trump, has repeatedly abused the platform he built in politics to preach hateful conspiracy theories about Jews and praise people who commit acts of violence against them.
Nehlen typically promotes his vision of terror on white-nationalist podcasts and through the extremist-favored messaging app Telegram, which he adopted after being suspended from mainstream social media platforms.
He has shown an open willingness to associate with other extremists on podcasts and on Telegram, including “Bowl Gang,” a collection of white nationalist social media users who derive their name from the hairstyle of racist mass murderer Dylann Roof.
Nehlen promotes the James Mason-penned manifesto SIEGE to his followers. Mason’s book is popular in the accelerationist wing of the white power movement, and advocates readers committing acts of terrorism as a means to spur the collapse of Western civilization.
“We don’t want to ‘hurt’ the System, we want to KILL IT!” Mason writes in that book.
In His Own Words
“People were suggesting that maybe he [alleged Poway synagogue shooter John T. Earnest] is of Jewish ancestry and, quite honestly, I think we ought to step back from this and say it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. Because if he is Aryan or if he is Jewish, he went in and shot up some Jews. And, quite honestly, if we can convince Jews to go in and shoot up other Jews, then that’s the power of the crystals right there. So I’m of the opinion that he is not of the Jewish persuasion and we see this trotted out every single time. … They always try to put some spin on these guys whether it’s [alleged Pittsburgh Synagogue shooter Robert] Bowers or [alleged New Zealand terrorist] Tarrant or [racist mass murderer Dylann] Roof or [Norwegian Terrorist Anders] Breivik – any of these guys, they stepped up to do something and we ought to celebrate them. … Unfortunately, it was not livestreamed. [The New Zealand terror attack] set the bar on that pretty high here recently. But I’m encouraged… we’re gonna see this acceleration continue… we’re gonna find ourselves in a situation where we’re the ones who tear it down. We aren’t necessarily the ones who are gonna build it back up. It’d be great if we are. It’d be great if we could do it in that timeframe, but it’s gotta be torn down. This whole neoliberal facade that we’re all walking around in has got to be torn down and it’s got to be destroyed. And so that’s where I stand… I’m not backing away from this kid. I’m heralding his arrival.”
– “The Gas Station” podcast, April 29, 2019, referring to a terror attack at a synagogue in San Diego
“I’m not opposed to someone … leading a million Robert Bowers to the promised land.”
– “Goy Talk” podcast, April 18, 2019
“Armed machine gun turrets every 300 yards. … And you can automate those. Anyone who approaches that barrier will be treated as an enemy combatant. Man, woman or child.”
– Explaining his immigration policy for America’s southern border on David Duke’s radio show, February 2018
“I’ve compiled a list of ‘verified’ Twitter users who have attacked me *in just the last month alone* for my #AmericaFirst positions. Of those 81 people, 74 are Jews, while only 7 are non-Jews.”
– From the Twitter account @PNehlen in January 2018
“Hey k---- I’ve got a message for you: get fukd. [Day of the Rope] real soon.”
– Telegram, May 15, 2019
Beginnings and Donald Trump
Paul Nehlen was born on May 9, 1969.
He started his professional career as a Wisconsin-based businessman, according to the bio from his second campaign for Congress:
Paul Nehlen is a Wisconsin business executive with over 30 years of experience in the manufacturing industry.
He got his start on the shop floor when he was 18 years old and worked his way up through middle management and into executive positions. He has run business operations for Fortune 500 companies throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
As an inventor, Paul holds seven patents in the United States, more abroad, and has others pending.
The Wisconsin-based paper Isthmus reported that he served as the senior vice president of operations at a company called Neptune Benson, which focuses on water filtration systems. Southern Poverty Law Center reached out to that company, who said that Nehlen is no longer employed there.
Regarding Nehlen’s inventions, he started the industrial parts company Blue Skies Global, LLC. In 1987, according to the company’s website. The website makes a pitch to customers that mirrors Nehlen’s voice as a political candidate. Blue Skies Global tells consumers:
If you are purchasing from a large multi-national, you might not be buying a product that they themselves are manufacturing. They may be purchasing from someone else and marking your product up for sale to you. Let me eliminate that costly layer and provide AMERICAN MADE PRODUCT!
Nehlen launched his first primary against then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in March 2016 as a political neophyte. The right-leaning Washington Times called him a “wealthy businessman with tea party ties” when he jumped in the race.
Nehlen’s 2016 campaign for Congress was ideologically similar to Trump’s and was buoyed by FOX News and other outlets with large, national audiences. Breitbart.com ran several stories on Nehlen, for example. Right-wing pundits such as Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter helped to promote Nehlen’s campaign by either endorsing him or giving him airtime.
Steve Bannon, who went from Breitbart’s executive chairman to serving as the chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 campaign, praised Nehlen at that time, calling him “David to Paul Ryan’s Goliath.” But the most notable praise came from the future president himself. Trump told The Washington Post Nehlen ran “a very good campaign” and even thanked him on Twitter for his support.
Nehlen lost his race against Paul Ryan badly, pulling in only 15% of the vote. His rhetoric on the campaign trail foreshadowed his apparent radicalization in its final days.
“The question is, why do we have Muslims in the country?” he said to a conservative radio host in August 2016. When the host asked Nehlen if his comment meant removing all Muslims from America, Nehlen said the idea intrigued him.
“I’m suggesting we have a discussion about it, that’s for sure,” Nehlen replied.
Second campaign and accusations of antisemitism
Nehlen announced his second campaign for Congress in the summer of 2017. He appeared on stage with Bannon in support of Roy Moore in December 2017, but shortly thereafter, his formal connections to the Republican party collapsed in dramatic fashion.
Nehlen appeared on “Fash the Nation,” which is a white nationalist podcast hosted on Michael Peinovich’s The Right Stuff network, in December 2017. “Fash the Nation” serves as one of the most popular broadcasts of the mostly online, white supremacist “alt-right” movement. The hosts referred to Nehlen as “the most high-caliber contender for public office in the 2018 cycle” in the show notes.
“I’m an engineer. I design equipment. I make my own money,” he told “Fash the Nation” in December 2017, regarding his independent wealth.
At the same time this was happening, Nehlen used his verified Twitter account for his campaign, @PNehlen, to signal about his antisemitism.
“Just admit you are a (((bigot))) … and I’ll pretend you didn't pretend you were white for the purposes of starting a race war [with] me,” Nehlen later wrote on Twitter, responding to a critic of his who is Jewish. The use of triple parentheses – often referred to as “echoes” – has an antisemitic connotation to it. Social media users in the white supremacist “alt-right” movement put echoes around Jewish names to single them out for harassment.
For example, Nehlen used Twitter to endorse Kevin MacDonald’s antisemitic book The Culture of Critique on Dec. 27, 2017.
“Currently reading,” Nehlen wrote, along with a photo of the book.
On Jan. 30, 2018, he published to Twitter a list of “Jews” who he said attacked him. The list stirred immediate criticism from high profile users of that website and included names of people who were not Jewish.
“I see you have me on this list,” reporter Yashar Ali wrote from his handle @yashar. “I’m not Jewish … I’m a practicing Roman Catholic. But I’m in some pretty good company on this list … so feel free to say I’m Jewish.”
Conservatives who typically back the GOP criticized Nehlen in public in the aftermath of the stunt.
“I’m surprised Twitter hasn’t banned Paul Nehlen yet,” Erick Erickson, a high-profile conservative commentator, wrote on Twitter on Jan. 30 in outrage about the list of Jewish names spread across that website.
Nehlen was finally suspended from the site Feb. 13, 2018, after posting a racist meme involving Meghan Markle, who was at that time the fiancée of England’s Prince Harry. He had exceeded 90,000 followers on Twitter at the time he was suspended from the site, archives show. Nehlen continued to post antisemitic content to Facebook and to the fringe, white supremacist-friendly social media website Gab after his suspension.
GOP officials disowned Nehlen in the aftermath of the negative attention he received from the press. Republican Governor Scott Walker, who was initially criticized for not speaking out about Nehlen’s bigotry, eventually called him a racist.
Nehlen appeared to slide deeper into online white supremacist subcultures after losing his Twitter account. He spent more time on Gab, interacting with what was in February and March 2018 a menagerie of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other bigots.
Nehlen was ultimately suspended from Gab in early April 2018 for “doxxing,” which is the act of publishing private information about a person over the internet, typically including addresses and phone numbers, in the hopes of frightening or intimidating them. He used that site to publish the name and personal information of a man named Douglass Mackey in response to an internal argument related to the white supremacist movement. Mackey for years had inhabited the alt-right persona of “Ricky Vaughn,” appearing on social media sites such as Twitter and Gab making antisemitic comments and pushing arguments in favor of President Trump.
Accelerationism and advocacy of terrorism
After being suspended from Gab, Nehlen appeared on what would be his first “accelerationist” podcast. Within the context of the contemporary white power movement, “accelerationism” refers to the desire to hasten the destruction of Western civilization in order to give rise to a fascistic or neo-Nazi alternative for only non-Jewish whites.
Nehlen appeared on the April 19, 2018, episode of “Bowlcast,” a podcast hosted by pseudonymous white supremacists who openly advocate terrorism against minority communities and killing of law enforcement officers. It was cataloged by the blog Angry White Men. The podcast, which has been pulled from the web several times, is named after the type of haircut worn by racist mass murderer Dylann Roof, who killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015.
Nehlen referenced his suspension from Twitter on the show, claiming that of the 81 people he perceived to have “attacked” him on that website prior to his suspension, 74 were Jewish.
“74 were Jewish and therefore not people,” one of the hosts interjected.
“There you go,” Nehlen replied with a laugh.
Nehlen posted to Facebook about the book SIEGE on June 5, 2018, when he shared a meme depicting a young woman being hit in the face with a book marked with that title. SIEGE is a seminal text for white power accelerationists today. Written by neo-Nazi James Mason, the manifesto calls for acts of terrorism in order to hasten the destruction of Western society.
Nehlen again showcased his interest in terrorism on an April 18, 2019, appearance on the white supremacist podcast “Goy Talk.” He debated directions the white supremacist movement could take with the pseudonymous hosts of that show and Patrick Little, an antisemitic political figure who ran as a Republican and lost a race for Senate in California in 2018. The debate was also archived by the blog Angry White Men.
Nehlen talked about kicking off a “race war” on the show. He appeared to promote the idea of killing Jewish people in terror attacks by lavishing praise on Robert Bowers, the white supremacist Gab user who has been charged with killing 11 Jews in a terror attack in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018.
“I’m not opposed to someone … leading a million Robert Bowers to the promised land,” Nehlen quipped.
He discussed wearing a T-shirt on the show in with a picture of the alleged Tree of Life terrorist on it, along with the words “Screw your optics, I’m going in.” Bowers posted those words to Gab before allegedly carrying out the Tree of Life attack in October 2018, and they have subsequently become a meme. Photographs of Nehlen wearing the shirt he described on the show surfaced to Twitter in the aftermath of his appearance on “Goy Talk.”
Nehlen reappeared to Twitter under the handle @RabbiBalaam around the time he appeared on “Goy Talk.” Nehlen identified himself by name in his bio and made references to things he said during his conversation with Little on “Goy Talk.” Other white supremacists confirmed the former GOP candidate was operating the account in conversations with Hatewatch.
Nehlen made allusions to white power accelerationism on his account, writing on April 23, 2019, “At any time, Wignats may accelerate.” Wignats is a slang term for working-class white nationalists. The phrase sometimes also connotes a white nationalist or neo-Nazi who has given up hopes that their goals can be achieved through voting. The @RabbiBalaam account was suspended April 24.
In the aftermath of the attack on Poway Synagogue on April 27, 2019, in which police say John Earnest, 19, entered the house of worship and opened fire on congregants, Nehlen made his most explicit comments praising terrorism. He did it on “The Gas Station,” which is another accelerationism-minded podcast. The show aired on April 29, in the immediate aftermath of that attack. The episode was titled “Canonization,” which refers to the public celebration of racist or bigoted mass shooters using religious language and iconography.
“I’m not backing away from this kid,” he said about Earnest. “I’m heralding his arrival.”
Nehlen’s Facebook account, which was comparatively muted, remained active until May 3, 2019, when it was suspended along with the accounts of far-right conspiracists such as Alex Jones and Laura Loomer.
Nehlen maintained his contact with the pseudonymous hosts of “Bowlcast.” He hosts a group on the messaging app Telegram called “Uncle Paul” with some members of that collective. Nehlen uses the room to share memes praising far-right terrorism, including memes celebrating the man accused of murdering 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019.
On May 9, 2019, he announced on Telegram he was recording an audiobook version of SIEGE with his associates in the white supremacist movement.
“Turning 50 today and I can honestly say this country is a lot different than when I was growing up,” Nehlen wrote to his followers. “Not for the better either. Make your [in real life] friends and get ready to listen to SIEGE.”
FOX News host Laura Ingraham appeared to defend Nehlen on her show “The Ingraham Angle” on May 30, 2019.
The show broadcast a graphic of eight different people described as “prominent voices censored on social media,” which included Nehlen alongside actor James Woods and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Ingraham described the pundits featured in the graphic with apparent sympathy, calling them “people who believe in border enforcement, people who believe in national sovereignty.”
Nehlen published another list of Jewish people who work in media on June 4, 2019. The list, which he posted on his Telegram group, included dozens of names of Jewish people who work for companies such as Viacom, Dreamworks, NBC, CBS, Disney, The New York Times and even FOX News.