Tuesday , February 13, 2018 - 6:40 AM
(c) 2018, The Washington Post.
Paul Nehlen, a fringe challenger of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and whose anti-Semitic tweets caused a stir in recent months, drew criticism again this week after tweeting an image of actress Meghan Markle photoshopped with the face of Cheddar Man, the dark-skinned man believed to be the first modern Briton.
Twitter suspended Nehlen’s account after he shared an image of Prince Harry standing next to Markle, a biracial American he is set to marry in May. Along with the image was this tweet: “Honey does this tie make my face look pale?”
The Friday tweet, the latest in Nehlen’s history of incendiary statements, appears to have been prompted by recent revelations that early British inhabitants are believed to have been dark-skinned. Nehlen has described himself as “pro-white” and decried the research on Cheddar Man as a way of “disappearing whites or dispossessing whites of their homelands.”
Last week, a new project from London’s Natural History Museum and University College London revealed groundbreaking DNA results showing that early British inhabitants did not have pale skin as initially believed. Cheddar Man, who lived 10,000 years ago and whose skeleton was discovered in 1903 in a cave in Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, England, had brown hair, blue eyes and “dark to black skin.” New analysis and facial reconstruction have led scientists to believe that his ancestors arrived in Britain via the Middle East after leaving Africa, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Hassan wrote.
The tweet has caused an uproar on social media and among some British tabloids. The Daily Mirror called the tweet “racist,” while the Sun described Nehlen as Markle’s “Twitter troll.” Actor Patrick Adams, who co-stars with Markle in USA Network’s legal drama “Suits,” lashed out at Nehlen in a tweet Saturday, calling the Wisconsin businessman “a sad and sick man with no sense of shame or class.”
Nehlen’s campaign did not immediately respond to a call and email requesting comment. But he defended himself Sunday by again attacking the research that revealed the physical features of early British inhabitants.
“A deliberately inflammatory article (that I’d argue is pure junk science) was published indicating Brits, and by extension, Americans, came from this Cheddar Man character,” Nehlen wrote on Facebook. “In response, I lampooned the article.”
Nehlen is running for the second time in the Republican congressional primaries in Wisconsin after losing to Ryan by nearly 70 percentage points in 2016. His anti-immigrant views and use of the #ItsOkayToBeWhite hashtag have attracted criticism. Previously a political unknown, Nehlen received praise from President Donald Trump in 2016, when the then-Republican presidential candidate was facing a backlash from Ryan and others over comments about a slain Muslim soldier’s parents. Nehlen was Ryan’s primarily challenger at that time.
The right-wing website Breitbart, which deployed reporters to cover Nehlen’s congressional bid in 2016, denounced him in December following his anti-Semitic tweets. He wrote in one tweet that he is reading “The Culture of Critique,” a book about Jewish culture widely considered to be anti-Semitic, CNN reported. An adviser for Steve Bannon, then still Breitbart’s executive chairman, told The Post that the decision to abandon Nehlen was made after Bannon learned of his appearance on white nationalist podcasts.
In a text message to The Post’s David Weigel, Nehlen described himself as “pro-white” and said he opposed double standards.
“If pro-White is White supremacy, what is pro-Jewish?” Nehlen said. “I reject being called a White Supremacist, because clearly Pro-White isn’t White Supremacy unless Pro-Jewish is Jewish Supremacy.”
Nehlen drew flak again last month when he tweeted a list of his critics and claimed that most of them are Jewish. “74 are Jews,” he wrote, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Nehlen later posted the names and contact information of critics who reached out to his campaign, some of whom said they had received harassing calls and messages.
After Twitter suspended Nehlen’s account, dozens of other users changed their Twitter avatars to Nehlen’s picture. He then posted a collage of nearly 100 Twitter accounts bearing his picture and variations of his name to his Facebook page. “You can’t silence everyone,” he wrote, along with the hashtag #ShallNotCensor.
Nehlen had proposed a legislation that would impose a $500,000 fine for “wrongful censorship” by major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit. He cited comments by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who accused Twitter of censoring conservatives but not liberals.
“The bedrock of American society is freedom of speech. Social media companies have usurped this freedom, and we intend to give it back to the American people,” Nehlen said in a statement in December.
The First Amendment limits only the government’s ability to suppress speech and does not apply to private companies like Twitter. The social media company says it suspends fake and hacked accounts, as well as those that have been reported for abusive behavior.
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