And he loves making odd generalizations about what Jews are like. “Poop, incest, and pedophilia. Why are those common themes repeated so often with Jews?” he tweeted. One of Nehlen’s 89,000 followers declared that “@pnehlen is one of the few American Christians courageous and honest enough to defend the Faith against Islamists and Talmudic Pharisees alike even when it’s unpopular. God bless you, Paul!” Nehlen hit retweet.
And that’s just what’s happened in the last few days. There’s a lot more. These examples, which are representative of how Nehlen conducts himself online, also represent the well-worn tropes of anti-Semitism: conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the media; using Christianity to target and direct suspicion toward Jews; rewriting history to put distance between Judaism and Christianity. His comments are so over-the-top, so clichéd and ham-fisted, that they almost seem like a joke—a not-particularly-creative parody of Jew-hating, rather than shocking comments from a man who won more than 10,000 Republican votes for Congress in 2016.
All of this is worth noting not because Nehlen seems primed to win office; if anything, whatever influence he once had seems to be slipping. When he ran for office in 2016, he won endorsements from such conservative stars as Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter. He showed up at Roy Moore’s last rally in Alabama and was apparently favored by the former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Yet Breitbart News, where Nehlen was formerly a contributor, recently dumped him after he tweeted a string of anti-Semitic messages in December. By all appearances, he remains a fringe figure with a diffuse online following that probably won’t boost his chances in Wisconsin.
But Nehlen does represent two troubling, pernicious political trends. The first is the appropriation of Christianity to justify white-supremacist views. Nehlen says he is not a white supremacist; he is just “pro-white.” Whatever meaningless semantic distinctions he wants to make, the behavior is the same: He repeatedly uses his purported faith as a rallying cry against Jews—a group, he implicitly claims, that is not white. I reached out to Nehlen for an interview about his views on Christianity. He did not respond.
“Save your breath little man,” he tweeted at Ben Shapiro, the editor in chief of the conservative outlet The Daily Wire, who has been the target of extreme anti-Semitism online. “Christians have nothing to learn about Christ from Jews.” While it is not unusual for conservative politicians to tweet their support for Second Amendment rights, it is unusual to “urge Christians to concealed carry,” and then, when asked why he specifically called out Christians, reply that “I’ll advocate for whomever I want, and that will be my Christian brothers and sisters. If you want to advocate for Jews, who’s stopping you?”