Illinois Radical Parent Activist Has Hate Group Ties, History of Racist Posts
An official in Illinois’ DuPage County GOP who frequently appears in local and national media associates with extremist groups and shares racist posts on social media, Hatewatch has found.
Content warning: This article contains hateful language and images depicting symbols and gestures promoting white supremacy. Reader discretion is advised.
Terry Newsome, 62, of Darien, Illinois, leads Illinois Parents Involved in Education. The group opposes public school policies such as accommodations for trans students, LGBTQ-inclusive education and classroom discussion of the U.S. legacy of systemic racism. Newsome has a history of attempting to shut down community events associated with LGBTQ inclusion and smearing other parents in his community who challenge his views. He participates in anti-LGBTQ protests organized by the hate group the Proud Boys, and he is seeking to organize a local chapter of the anti-LGBTQ hate group MassResistance.
On social media, Newsome posts racist memes and claims he was present at the U.S. Capitol “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021. Despite connections to extremist groups and a history of using bigoted rhetoric about Black people and LGBTQ people, Newsome won a seat as a Republican precinct committeeperson. He has a growing presence in local media, which portrays him as the prototypical voice of angry conservative parents, often without disclosing his organized far-right activity.
While Hatewatch was in the process of reporting this story, Newsome sent messages to this reporter's personal email address and LinkedIn page, inquiring about FOIA requests for his email correspondence with public officials. He volunteered information about his family's political affiliations and offered to contribute to any "research." When Hatewatch contacted Newsome with a request for comment on the facts detailed in this reporting, he declined. In these exchanges, Newsome copied David Smith, the executive director of Illinois Family Institute, an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Newsome wrote:
After further advice from counsel I was suggested not to respond to your request. I was informed that Southern Poverty Law is a very extreme discredited far left organization. Furthermore, I was informed that you are a self proclaimed far left activist intent on using media and communications to "disrupt privilege" for the sole purpose of social justice. Therefore I will not be responding.
Newsome did not respond to questions about whether his counsel was David Smith or anyone else affiliated with Illinois Family Institute.
The Republican precinct captain from District 141
Newsome’s rise as a far-right activist began, like many in his cohort, with the pandemic. In 2021, he mobilized parents to oppose COVID-19 safety measures, particularly masking, in his suburban Chicagoland school district. Later, he pivoted to attacking “critical race theory,” inclusive curricula and public education itself.
Newsome now leads the Illinois chapter of U.S. Parents Involved in Education – a group committed to gutting public education whose national president was endorsed by anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council. Newsome also organizes with Awake IL, an organization led by the DuPage County chair of radical parent group Moms for Liberty.
The professed goal of radical parent groups like Newsome’s, along with Awake IL and Moms for Liberty, is to stop what they say is indoctrination of children into a harmful, non-Christian and unpatriotic worldview. To accomplish their goal, these groups target school board meetings and members in pressure campaigns to ban books and curriculum from schools. Similar efforts have taken place across the U.S., with the ire usually concentrated around the same few titles for high school audiences that spotlight race, gender identity and sexuality. These groups also encourage like-minded people to run for local elections and support the political campaigns of hard-right candidates.
In June, Newsome defeated the incumbent to represent Downers Grove District 141 as their Republican precinct committeeperson, or precinct captain. Precinct committeepersons serve two-year terms and are responsible for voter outreach, shaping party policy and selecting candidates for elected office at local, state and national levels. Just a month after he was elected as a GOP precinct captain, Newsome used his new position to circulate a propaganda video produced by U.S. Parents Involved in Education about perceived leftist indoctrination in schools.
Newsome’s victory came after a year of involvement in hard-right activism. An antifascist collective first reported Newsome’s ties to the Proud Boys in December 2021, after he and Proud Boys members engaged in an online harassment campaign against participants in a holiday event at a Methodist church in Downers Grove, Illinois, that featured a trans man dressed as Santa Claus. Newsome directed attention to the event on social media and during his appearances on far-right media, calling for his allies to protest.
A participant in the event, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, told Hatewatch the church received many threatening phone calls, emails and online messages.
“The nature of these messages were, ‘You need cancel it, you’re groomers, you’re pedophiles, this is un-Christ like. Santa Claus is a real man and you’re endangering children,’” the participant said. After the Proud Boys began targeting the event, organizers decided to move their holiday party to a church in nearby Naperville, Illinois, the participant said.
Protesters still appeared outside the church in Downers Grove and outside the new location in Naperville. “Coming to threaten and antagonize children’s events does more harm than anything we could program,” the participant said.
In September, local media reported allegations from staff at the Downers Grove Public Library that they were experiencing harassment connected to a Drag Time Bingo night planned for October. Since August, Newsome had been using his public Facebook page to threaten to shut that event down, writing: “This event will not happen!!!!!!! If it does we will overwhelm it with tons of protesters from multiple organizations. I PROMISE” (emphasis Newsome’s). Organizers canceled the event after library staff received a wave of threatening messages. Within a week of the cancellation, the library was sent a bullet in the mail, along with a message signed, “Your friends at MAGA,” calling the staff “commies” and threatening “more to come.” On Gettr, Newsome denied having anything to do with the mailed threat and denounced it as a hoax.
Newsome also began attending and speaking at far-right events. In October, Newsome planned to speak alongside election deniers and COVID conspiracists, including Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, who helped fund the recount of Arizona ballots demanded by 2020 presidential election deniers and spoke at a pro-Trump rally near the U.S. Capitol before the Jan. 6 insurrection. The October event was canceled.
Also in October, Newsome promoted and attended a MAGA-themed rap show in suburban Chicago, which featured an onstage discussion between white nationalist Nick Fuentes and right-wing provocateur Alex Stein. Fuentes, who received a subpoena from the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, is an antisemitic far-right influencer seeking to normalize white nationalism in the Republican Party. Stein peddles conspiracies on One America News Network. He had a brief moment of national notoriety after a video emerged of Stein sexually harassing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Several Proud Boys were also in attendance at the October show, including the head of the Illinois chapter, Edgar “Remy Del Torro” Gonzalez, according to photographs posted to social media by one of the performers. Also in attendance, as seen in the same social media post, was Stephanie Trussell, who was at the time campaigning as the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor.
Online, hate group ties and racist caricatures
Newsome’s online presence reveals further ties to the Proud Boys. He was photographed next to a known member of the Proud Boys at a Blue Lives Matter rally in Mount Prospect, Illinois, in 2021. It’s not clear if Newsome knew he was posing with a member of the Proud Boys, but the man was wearing the black-and-yellow Fred Perry polo shirt that has been adopted as the uniform of the hate group. The rally occurred after community members asked the police department not to fly the “thin blue line” flag, which is used to signal support for law enforcement. Some use the flag to oppose the Black Lives Matter movement. In the photograph, the Proud Boys member and Newsome give what appeared to be the “OK” hand signal, which is used by far-right activists to troll anti-racists.
Newsome also has an active presence on hard-right social media, where he displays his extremist views and affiliations.
On Truth Social, which Trump founded after Twitter banned him following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Newsome shared an announcement by the Proud Boys on July 12 calling for a counterprotest of a Pride event at a bakery in suburban Chicago. Pride organizers canceled the event after a reported associate of the Proud Boys, Joseph Collins, allegedly smashed the windows of the bakery and vandalized the business. Authorities charged Collins with a bias-motivated crime. He pleaded not guilty, and his trial is ongoing.
Newsome has used Gettr, a popular site among white nationalists and other far-right figures, to try to organize a local chapter of MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ hate group. MassResistance, founded in 1995 by vocal anti-LGBTQ activist Brian Camenker, circulates anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience under the guise of Christian values, while pushing policymakers to restrict the rights of anti-LGBTQ Americans and remove LGBTQ references from schools.
Newsome has also used Gettr to issue veiled threats against public officials and such events as the Downers Grove bingo night. For example, following the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago that repossessed several highly classified documents from former President Donald Trump, Newsome wrote on the site that Merrick Garland, the U.S. Attorney General, “needs to be removed from this earth.” In the days after the raid, threats against the FBI, Garland and the judge who signed the search order drastically increased. Newsome also uses Gettr to smear other parents in his community, labeling them “groomers” and “radical leftists” for supporting inclusive programming.
On Gettr, Hatewatch also found Newsome twice shared a racist caricature. The image features a cartoon depiction of a Black man drawn with exaggerated features. Hatewatch has chosen to provide that image to illustrate the exact nature of Newsome’s online activity. To view the caricature, which readers are reminded is explicit and offensive, click here. White supremacists have used these caricatures for centuries. In the first instance, on Aug. 22, Newsome used the racist caricature to respond to a thread about former professional basketball player Dennis Rodman and imprisoned WNBA player Brittney Griner. A few weeks later, on Sept. 8, Newsome used the same image on a thread about a Black woman who was running for Congress in Florida.
Newsome deleted the racist caricature from his Gettr page in early October.
Also on Gettr, Hatewatch found Newsome liking an anonymous comment that uses the N-word.
“More attacks on White Americans. And they wonder why we call them [N-words],” Hunterw21 commented to a now-deleted thread on Gettr that Newsome liked.
In September, Newsome went to a hotel in Burr Ridge, Illinois, where migrants had been sent from Texas. He filmed people in the lobby, many of whom were children, and posted the video on Gettr. Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, bused 64 migrants to Chicago in late August as part of a plan to protest President Joe Biden’s immigration policies. State officials reportedly housed the migrants in a shelter in the city before moving them to Burr Ridge, which is right next to Darien, where Newsome lives. He drove to the hotel and recorded the video inside the lobby. He circles around the room to capture video of the migrants, who were mostly families with young children, eating breakfast and talking among themselves. Nobody appears to notice Newsome recording the video, which lasts for about a minute.
Outside the hotel, Newsome records himself confronting a Spanish-speaking person, and attempts to use a translation app on a smartphone to find out when they arrived. After the migrant uses the translation app to respond, Newsome cannot figure out how to play it, and condescendingly barks, “no comprende” before ending the recording.
Newsome also spreads misinformation about the Jan. 6 insurrection online. Without furnishing proof, Newsome explicitly states on social media that he was on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, but he does not say whether he stepped inside.
“I was there … They didn’t even fight the cops during the initial confrontation between the Capital police and protesters,” Newsome commented on a June 30 Gettr thread about whether the Oath Keepers inspired violence that day. His comments directly contradict extensive video evidence from the day of the attack.
Local media prominence
Since Newsome began his public activities, he has appeared as a source forNBC News Chicago, ABC 7 Chicago, WGN-TV, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Herald. His connections to hate groups and embrace of far-right extremist rhetoric have gone unremarked upon in these publications.
He has also appeared on Newsmax, which circulates misinformation about COVID, the 2020 election and crime rates. Newsome appears as a source in junk-news outlets that disguise conservative talking points as local news coverage. These media operations use computer-generated content and content published by outsourced writers who use fake names. Commonly referred to as “pink slime,” which refers to a meat byproduct used as filler in the beef industry, these outlets are found across the U.S. Approximately 1,300 of these news sites are operated by conservative operatives Brian Timpone and Dan Proft. In his appearances on these sites, Newsome largely plays the role of an aggrieved suburban dad upset at perceived leftist policies in his children’s schools.
Newsome also frequently appears as a guest in local Chicago media as a source for reporters looking for the voice of a parent engaged in efforts to ban books and curricula that challenge reactionary views on American culture and history.
In September, Newsome appeared on a local news program, “Chicago Tonight,” opposite Johnathan Friedman, a director from PEN America, an organization that opposes efforts by anti-education activists to ban books. After discussing efforts to ban the book Gender Queer, Newsome tells Friedman, “It has absolutely nothing to do with LGBTQ. … The parents in my community are against the graphic pornography.”
Friedman’s response puts these images into a larger context that Newsome left out: “When you read that book from cover to cover it is impossible to find those images titillating in some way. The book is about a main character’s feelings of asexuality and how off-putting they find those acts. In that sense, it’s not really about sex at all. It’s actually about not engaging in sex.”
Photo illustration by SPLC