Charlie Kirk doesn’t really seem to mind white nationalism

Author: Ali Breland

In 2012, Charlie Kirk

Shutterstock Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA speaking to attendees at CPAC 2020.

The year before the Groyper wars, Kirk faced a similar public humiliation when he interviewed Tucker Carlson at a Turning Point USA conference, and the then-Fox News host spent most of the 50 minutes mocking Kirk for his free-market tendencies. When Kirk tried to establish that it is “not the state’s role to incentivize or de-incentivize individual behavior,” Carlson laughed at him and dryly said “hilarious.”

“If you start with these inflexible theories,” Carlson said minutes later, talking about Kirk’s libertarian-esque rejection of regulation, “you wind up where are now: in a country where a small number of people are taking all the spoils and you guys are shafted.”

“Tucker, we’re not getting shafted,” Kirk responded. Carlson cocked his head back and laughed. The crowd laughed with him. Online, commenters crowed. “Embarrassing effort Charlie,” one wrote. “Nationalism really throws both leftists and rightists for a loop. Great job by Tucker as always.”

Kirk might have spent that day arguing back. But this June, Kirk hired Blake Neff, who had spent years as a key producer and writer on Carlson’s Fox News show, helping spread his nationalist politics. “Anything he’s reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me,” Neff once boasted, before he resigned from Fox in 2020 after he was caught having posting misogynistic, homophobic, and racist content to an online forum. 

According to Media Matters, Kirk welcomed Neff to Talking Point USA during a live stream, saying “we’re honored to have Blake on our team—he’s great.”

Last spring, Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson documented Kirk’s growing appreciation for Christian Nationalism. But since then, Kirk has gone beyond that already extreme ideology to make his recent overtures to racists on the right. The reasons behind Kirk’s ideological drift are unclear. He may be reacting to changes among young GOP supporters; many campus conservatives—the audience he’s built a career claiming to represent—have also shifted to the right; last year, I was able to find roughly 30 schools where Fuentes followers had taken over once mainstream conservative student groups. 

Andrew Kolvet, a spokesman for both Kirk and Turning Point, insists Kirk is not a white supremacist, nor is he making overtures to them. “We reject the darkness of those [far-right] movements. It’s negative and anti-human,” he added, before defending TPUSA’s record. “It’s critically important for observers to not conflate a legitimate and forceful pushback against radical Marxism with White Nationalism.”

Similarly, Kolvet argues Kirk’s praise of whiteness is justified by the term being “used as a pejorative” by “certain professors” and others on the left. 

Kolvet waved off Kirk’s conversations with people like Sailer and Yarvin as an example of being “willing to engage with forbidden topics…He’s not endorsing everything they believe.”

“Kirk might have agreed with everything Sailer said that interview,” he added, “but Sailer has also written a ton of things. It’s not a wholesale endorsement of everything he has written.”

Even if you’re uninclined to take him at his word, Kolvet is correct about at least one thing: Kirk is not the vanguard of the far-right. But as a political operator, he sees value in adopting more of their positions—and the why doesn’t much matter to the outcome. Either way, it moves the window of acceptable discourse to a space more favorable for extremists. I told Kolvet this. He disagreed.

This article first appeared on Mother Jones. It has been republished with the publication’s permission.

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