Confronting GOP’s Racist Rhetoric that Incites Terrorist Hate Crimes

Interview with Peter Montgomery, managing director of People For The American Way's Right Wing Watch, conducted by Scott Harris

On the same day thousands of civil rights activists gathered in Washington, D.C. to honor the 60th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a white man wearing a mask and firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle emblazoned with a Nazi swastika, shot and killed three black people in a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida. Local law enforcement said the shooter, who killed himself after the attack, left messages for his parents, the media and federal law enforcement officials making it clear his murderous rampage was motivated by racial hatred.

The fatal shootings in Jacksonville, follows deadly racist and anti-semitic hate-motivated shootings at public gathering places over the past five years. Those deadly attacks include 11 Jews killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018; 23 Latinos murdered at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas in 2019; 8 Asians killed at 3 massage parlors in Atlanta in 2021; 10 Black shoppers gunned down at supermarket in Buffalo, New York in 2022 and 5 killed at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs in 2022 last year.

A University of Chicago poll in April found that an alarming 25 percent of Americans believe the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory that holds there’s an active effort to replace white people with non-white populations — a message regularly repeated by some Republican politicians, as well as right-wing commentators on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Peter Montgomery, managing director of People For The American Way’s Right Wing Watch. Here, he examines the link between the Republican party’s racist rhetoric and the rising number of racially motivated hate crimes.

PETER MONTGOMERY: This is, you know, it’s really just the latest one of these kind of bigoted mass shootings that we’ve seen. Before this, we’ve seen black people targeted at a supermarket in Buffalo and Latinos targeted in El Paso. Jews targeted in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. And so, a term that, you know, academics and policymakers are using a lot these days is “stochastic terrorism.”

And that’s the way to distinguish from just when we use the word something like a lone wolf or a lone operator. It sort of makes it seem like this person is disconnected from the movement and just operating on his own. But the idea of stochastic terrorism is that when there are groups and individuals putting out hateful rhetoric over and over again promoting these conspiracy theories about certain groups of people, promoting hatred toward groups of people, the more you do that, the more the odds are that some person out of anger or out of being mentally unbalanced or whatever is going to act on that rhetoric.

And we’ve seen that over and over again. It really points to how irresponsible or how dangerous it is when we have far right activists and politicians putting rhetoric out there that suggests that violence is necessary. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of that going on on the right, not only the kind of Nazi white nationalist right that this shooter is apparently connected to people who are every day online promoting hatred toward specific groups of people, but also from the MAGA movement right. People who have been threatening civil war if Trump didn’t stay in office and then threatening civil war if he was indicted. And there’s a lot of people out there talking about violence, that’s going to lead to more of it, I’m afraid to say.

SCOTT HARRIS: Yeah. Just to address what you were talking about, Peter, I wondered if you would assess for us what, if any, link is there between this hateful and divisive rhetoric that we regularly hear from Republican politicians who are expressing condemnation of the LGBTQ community, Asians, Jews, Latinos, the black community as well and the violence perpetrated by these politicians’ unhinged supporters.

We had the connection made at a recent press conference. Republican governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis was at a gathering after this horrendous shooting in Jacksonville. And the people there, when he expressed his condemnation of the act, he was booed by the people in that community. They made that link.

PETER MONTGOMERY: It’s always very hard to make a specific one-on-one connection between somebody said A and this person B pulled the trigger. But I think it is very legitimate to say that the climate of paranoia put out by people who are pushing all these conspiracy theories, the rage that is generated by Trump continuing to tell his supporters that he won the election and the election was stolen from him and his supporters.

It’s a lie and it’s a dangerous lie. We already know that because the rage that it sends people into that their country has been stolen from them — it led to the violence on the Capitol. And I think it’s going to lead to more of that kind of violence.

And, you know, one of the things that I think we all need to do a better job of and I’m including Right Wing Watch and People for the America Way here — one of the things we’re looking to do is not only identify the people that are spewing this rhetoric, but then hold the public officials accountable for it. I mean, one of the things that’s dangerous is that we have people who have nightly shows where they’re streaming online, where they’re putting out hatred, where they’re really talking about violence, talking about the need to try Biden and hang him. The need to kill Dr. Fauci.

I mean, this is the kind of rhetoric that those same people get to go on stage with Eric Trump and Lara Trump and other people who are part of the MAGA movement insiders. And it’s wildly irresponsible for them to appear on the same stage with someone like Stew Peters spouting that kind of rhetoric.

But nobody in the MAGA movement seems to hold them to accountable for that. Republicans don’t seem to hold them accountable for that. Republican leadership doesn’t do that. And so I think we all need to do a better job of not letting the public officials get away with either winking and nodding to their far right.

But in some cases, it’s not even winking, nodding. It’s embracing this rhetoric and appearing on stage and showing up with some of these people.

For more information, visit Right Wing Watch at and People For The American Way at

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Peter Montgomery (19:01) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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