White supremacist hate groups and their sympathizers on the alt-right are lining up to endorse Doug Ford and the PC Party, and rote statements of disavowal are not good enough.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 30, 2018
Progressive Conservative candidate and Hamilton City Councillor Donna Skelly spent yesterday backpedaling furiously from a campus conservative event last December where she was photographed endorsing an alt-right website that promotes hatred.
Donna Skelly holding up a red MAGA-style 'Free Bird Media' ball cap (Image Credit: Facebook)
Press Progress first broke the story about Skelly holding up a red MAGA-style ball cap for "Free Bird Media" at a Christmas formal organized by the Campus Conservative associations for McMaster University and Mohawk College.
Free Bird Media is a far-right website that provides a platform for extremist propaganda under the cover of "free speech". It has published content from notorious white supremacist Paul Fromm, anti-Semitic blogger James Sears, anti-Muslim blogger Kevin Johnston, and neo-Nazi supporter Faith Goldy.
Sears and Johnston have both been charged with hate crimes for their racist attacks. Goldy was fired by right-wing hate site Rebel Media last year after promoting white supremacists during the Charlottesville, Virginia race riot.
Skelly issued a statement on Twitter, writing, "To clarify, I was invited to a Christmas party by Mohawk McMaster Young Conservatives. I mingled with the crowd was handed a hat on my way to podium after speaking to a young man. I had never met him or heard of this group before. I stayed for 20 minutes and left before he spoke."
She added, "I have always denounced hateful and harmful acts and words. They have no place in our Party and no place anywhere in Ontario."
Screen capture from Donna Skelly's Twitter posts
Alex Van Hamme, publisher of "Free Bird Media" and another speaker at the Christmas formal, has decried Skelly's disavowal of him. In a statement he posted yesterday on Facebook, he wrote, "Skelly completely threw me under the bus" and added that she "know[s] exactly who I am and what I'm about. Skell[y] stood on stage and declared, 'We need more media like this!' while holding my hat."
Screen capture from Alex Van Hamme's Facebook post
At a bare minimum, it is unsettling that Skelly participated in a speaking role without bothering to learn anything about the other speakers at the event. Holding up a hat directly modeled after Donald Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" hat is bad enough, but it is shockingly irresponsible to promote a website without knowing what you are endorsing.
During this extraordinary historic period in which right-wing extremists espousing misogyny, racism, Islamphobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and hate crimes are insinuating themselves back into the mainstream, all principled conservatives have an essential role to play in acting as gatekeepers for fascism and hatred.
Unfortunately, the creeping tolerance of hatred originates at the highest levels of right-wing political leadership. PC leader Doug Ford has been blowing racist dog-whistles - for example at the recent leaders' debate where he answered a question about bringing more immigrants to Northern Ontario towns by saying, "I'm taking care of our own first."
Far-right figures and groups, from the explicitly white supremacist to the more crypto-fascist, have not been shy in proclaiming their support for "Ford Nation" and their belief that Doug Ford could create an opening for white supremacist activity similar to the effect of Donald Trump in the United States.
This, combined with racist and bigoted statements by PC candidates Andrew Lawton and Merrilee Fullerton, send a clear message to extremists that their hateful views will be more welcome under a PC government.
White supremacist hate groups and their "free speech" sympathizers on the alt-right are lining up to endorse Doug Ford and the PC Party, and rote statements of disavowal are not good enough to undo the damage to our civil discourse.
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