Right-Wing Student Group at Arizona State University Apologizes Amid Controversy Over Antisemitic, Racist, Homophobic Comments
A right-wing group at Arizona State University has apologized after its co-founders were found last week to have made antisemitic, racist, homophobic and other offensive comments.
The College Republicans United, which was established last year as an unaffiliated offshoot of ASU’s College Republicans chapter, came under scrutiny after the Phoenix New Times published photos and comments shared by co-founders Richard Thomas and Kevin Decuyper, the latter of whom has since graduated.
The dossier, complied by a former club member, included a photo showing Thomas, an ASU senior, holding a tiki torch and a galleon of milk while posing near a white Dodge Challenger. Tiki torches were carried at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where white supremacists chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” A counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed by a white supremacist driving a Dodge Challenger. White supremacists have tried to use milk to highlight their supposed genetic supremacy, by falsely arguing that white people are the only ones who can properly digest lactose as adults.
In Facebook Messenger comments leaked to the New Times, Thomas posted a video of a child with Rett syndrome while asking, “Remind me why we can’t have a eugenics policy again?” In other chats, he called the black rapper Childish Gambino “degenerate monkey filth” and used multiple parentheses — an online antisemitic symbol known as the “echo” — when speaking of the Rosenbergs, an American Jewish couple that was executed for espionage for the Soviet Union in the 1950s. Thomas also suggested that being gay was “a deformity” akin to “being bipolar or chemically imbalanced.”
Decuyper, in turn, had defended his choice to use a photo of himself and Candace Owens, a black conservative woman, on his Facebook profile after being asked over Messenger, “What’s with the n***** in your profile picture.”
“I work in state politics and co-founded a right wing organization that’s already called Nazis/alt-right regularly so it helps me a lot to be camoflaged [sic] and low key on my public profile because it helps to have the support of the right wing community who thankfully don’t know my more extreme views,” he responded.
The club’s leaders initially appeared remorseless, with a statement on the Republicans United website decrying the New Times article as a “hit piece” orchestrated by disgruntled former members. According to the statement, Thomas was handed the tiki torch and milk galleon by others at a Halloween party, without realizing he was in front of a Dodge Challenger. “At no time has Richard or CRU ever supported racism or what happened at Charlottesville,” the statement read. “We have previously banned white-supremacists before, and we will continue to keep out legitimate racists.”
“College Republicans United should be judged on the public work we have done, judge us on our accomplishments and failures,” the statement continued. “Don’t judge us based on private conversations that were said to former members who had the ill intentions of using blackmail on club members.”
The group — which ASU officials said they are investigating, and the Arizona Republican Party said does not reflect its ideals — seemed to have backpedaled by Monday, announcing on Twitter that it was “seeking the opportunity to sincerely, publicly, and appropriately apologize, ask for forgiveness and seek to restore trust with the community” that afternoon on campus.
At the ensuing meeting, Thomas said the photo was “the one (thing) that I’m most ashamed of, above everything else,” AZ Central reported. “There was alcohol involved,” he said. “By no means is that an excuse to do something like that … It was completely inappropriate.”
Decuyper also apologized, though claimed his remarks were “construed by the media in a negative light far beyond what was actually meant.”
“I sincerely hope that I can be forgiven and that we can move on and bring you greater and better activism and much more to be proud of,” he added.