WASHINGTON -- The presidential candidate for the white nationalist American Freedom Party has resigned from the ticket, complaining that the party is committed to electing Donald Trump and toning down its "white genocide" message to attract Trump supporters. Internal emails show he's right.
"I've never had this happen," said presidential contender and lifelong segregationist Bob Whitaker, in a statement emailed by his senior staffer to The Huffington Post on Friday. "I've been in campaigns for fifty years, and I've never seen anything as screwed up as this." His campaign added that the party's "continued focus on Trump's campaign is impossible for Whitaker to work with."
AFP is a minor political party established by racist Southern California skinheads, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In his presidential campaign, Whitaker has been open about his view that racial diversity is a code word for genocide against white people. But recently, his party has neglected him in order to back Trump, whose rise party leaders see as an opportunity to bring AFP into the mainstream.
Emails obtained by HuffPost show AFP directors working to moderate their message to appeal to a broader base.
"Let’s be a wee more diplomatic with the ms [mainstream] media," wrote Tom Sunic, who has spoken at meetings sponsored by Klansmen, Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis. "Instead of using the right word 'white genocide' let’s use 'physical, administrative removal of Americans of European extraction.' Instead of 'white nationalists' let's use 'white advocates' or 'advocates of European heritage.'"
"I agree that 'genocide' is too strong," wrote Jared Taylor, editor of the pseudo-academic journal, American Renaissance. "It sounds like people attacking us with machetes and pitchforks. I think simple 'dispossession' is better. Also white nationalism sounds pretty stern, I think white advocacy sounds less scary but says what we want to say."
"If you say genocide, people roll their eyes," added AFP director Kevin MacDonald. "It's not a good label to use in a sound bite."
The men were discussing outreach related to their recent promotion of a proposed Trump cabinet, which included conservative pundit Ann Coulter as secretary of homeland security and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as White House chief of staff.
Trump is not the first presidential candidate to win white nationalist support. But the real estate mogul's racially-charged rhetoric, which includes a proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and vowing to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States, clearly speaks to these groups. His rallies have also inspired race-based harassment.
In Louisville, Kentucky, a woman complained to police that “she was called the racial slur ‘nigger’ while she was being pushed, shoved, and hit" during a Trump rally, according to police documents. A 31-year-old Arab-American reporter also described being referred to as a terrorist by a man at a Trump rally in Radford, Virginia.
Trump has denounced white supremacist support, but not without stumbling. He failed to immediately disavow former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, later blaming his response on a faulty earpiece. He received a $250 donation from white nationalist William Johnson, but, as other candidates have done, returned it after it was publicized, according to a Federal Election Commission filing and Johnson.
In one win for Whitaker's fringe movement, Trump retweeted a user with the handle "WhiteGenocideTM" to his millions of Twitter followers -- seeming to fulfill Whitaker's dream that Trump will one day endorse the concept of White Genocide. Laura Fitzgerald, Whitaker's senior staffer, pointed to Trump's retweet as explicit evidence the party doesn't need to tone down that message in order to appeal to a broader base. "If something is so effective, why change it?" she asked.
Now that the party is moving away from the White Genocide message, Whitaker and his ticket-mate, Tom Bowie, "an average blue-collar guy who awoke to the fact that this so-called 'race problem' was just an anti-white scam," are going to explore other options. Sunic, who has been vocal about the need for AFP to tone down its rhetoric, however, said, "We are still supportive of Mr. Whitaker and we do hope he will stay in our fold."
Johnson, a Los Angeles-based attorney who serves as AFP's chairman, said he understands Whitaker's decision to resign, but maintains that moderating the party's message is working. Johnson, who created the American National Super PAC to support Trump, pointed to recent robocalls he ran in favor of the GOPer in Wisconsin that were "voiced by a sincere grandmother," and said Trump, "will help preserve Western Civilization."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) told reporters he hoped "the people of this state are smart enough to see through that and denounce anything related to it." But that might not be the case.
"I personally answered hundreds of replies to the robocalls and the response was surprisingly favorable to Donald Trump," Johnson claimed. "So yes, there is merit in toning down a white nationalist message to reach Trump supporters," he added.
Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to comment for this story.