Update: A spokesperson for TPUSA told TPM after this article was published that Grisar had been elected president of the UNLV chapter, but that his term was set to begin in the fall.
Turning Point USA, the Trump-aligned right-wing group trying to make conservatism cool on college campuses, had to deal with yet another incident of racism in its ranks Thursday: a video that showed the president-elect of its University of Nevada, Las Vegas chapter endorsing “white power.”
In a cell phone video surfaced by the anarchist news website It’s Going Down and other platforms, a man identified as the elected president of TPUSA-UNLV, Riley Grisar (above, left) is seen making the “a-okay” hand gesture employed by many in the alt-right, and then saying “white power” twice.
In viral video, leader of #LasVegas chapter of Turning Point USA seen giving Alt-Right "OK" sign while friend screams, "We're gonna run the world! White Power! Fuck N*****s!" Was seen giving same hand sign at recent "Build the Wall" rally. CW: Racial Slurs https://t.co/f0IwuCWAsR pic.twitter.com/qcQIFTzk8i
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) May 10, 2019
“We’re going to rule the country. White power,” repeats an unidentified woman sitting next to Grisar who’s also flashing the hand signal. She adds: “Fuck the n******” then repeats the phrase.
An unidentified cameraman says “white power” as well, then says “Yeah, fuck ‘em all. Fuck ‘em all. That’s right.”
TPUSA released a statement on its Twitter account saying it had “permanently removed the student from any current or future involvement with our organization.” The group made no comment on the other two individuals seen in the video. It also seemed to hedge slightly on Grisar’s culpability, saying that TPUSA had a zero-tolerance policy for hate “no matter the medium or how dated the act or comment.”
TPM’s requests to the UNLV chapter of TPUSA to confirm the identities of the people in the video went unanswered. A TPUSA national spokesperson said he could not identify the other two people in the video. A spokesperson for UNLV confirmed to TPM that a student named Riley Grisar attends the school as an undergraduate and added: “The abhorrent views and language expressed in the video are antithetical to the values of diversity and inclusion that we espouse at UNLV every day. This matter, as well as the interactions that took place on campus last week, has been referred to the appropriate departments for review.”
Racism within TPUSA’s ranks is nothing new. As several outlets noted Friday, from the-then national field director saying she hates black people to anti-Semitic twitter jokes, the group has repeatedly had to answer for members’ bigoted comments after they’ve been publicly exposed.
Yet the group has maintained extensive connections to the modern Republican establishment. In December 2017, President Trump boosted TPUSA and its founder Charlie Kirk on Twitter. Kirk later interviewed Trump in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, steps from the White House. He and then-TPUSA communications director Candace Owens met with Trump in the Oval Office in May last year, Axios reported. Donald Trump Jr. has also appeared appeared at TPUSA events, as has right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
As the International Business Times revealed in November, the group — which sends professional organizers to campuses around the country to work with students — is funded by wealthy conservative donors.
Grisar’s removal caps off a rough few days for TPUSA. Last week, students at UNLV tore down a mock wall the chapter had constructed as part of a “build the wall” event.
And Owens resigned as national spokesperson of the group on May 1, just a few weeks after being invited by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee to testify during a hearing on hate crimes and white nationalism. During the hearing, she defended earlier, widely criticized comments she’d made about Adolf Hitler wanting to “make Germany great.”
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