Joe Henderson: Richard Spencer at UF is emergency all right
People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of activists protesting against a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Richard Spencer is clean cut, casual but professional, a disarming look for one of the most prominent faces in what is becoming a crowded field of racism in the United States.

His scheduled appearance Thursday afternoon the University of Florida prompted Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency, in case things get out of hand. That tends to happen when Spencer is involved.

He was a leader at the Charlottesville, Va. white supremacist rally that ended with a nationally televised riot where there was one death and multiple injuries.

Spencer admits he chooses a dress shirt, coat and tie over a white hood and robe because he doesn’t want to scare people while talking about things like  “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans… based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.”

Too late.

Noting that wardrobe ruse, Spencer was described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a kind of professional racist in khakis.”

Racists can be smart, and Spencer certainly qualifies. He was educated at the University of Virginia and was in a Ph.D. program at Duke before dropping out to lead the American Policy Institute, described as a think tank for the alt-right.

In a column for API in 2014, Spencer dismissed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “a fraud and degenerate in his life, (who) has become the symbol and cynosure of White Dispossession and the deconstruction of Occidental civilization. We must overcome!”

He told CNN that, despite multiple reports to the contrary, he never called for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” In the same interview though, he told the network, “We have experienced this mass migration of people (into the United States). Therefore they could go home, you can go home again. … They came here peacefully. They could leave peacefully.”

Well, he could leave too. Alas, UF president Kent Fuchs said he is lawfully required to allow Spencer to speak on campus. That doesn’t mean he has to like it. In his Twitter account, Fuchs urged students to “avoid the event.”

Spencer and those support his pathetic views represent a special challenge to the ideals of America. The right of free speech is central to who we are as a nation, even when it is as potentially destructive as Spencer’s.

He has turned the First Amendment into a kind of Trojan Horse, demanding – and lawfully receiving – a platform to spew hate-filled garbage that tears at the core of a nation he essentially is trying to destroy.

The Founders realized the danger making laws to prohibit free speech and counted on people being able to filter and reject nonsense like this. That ideal is under attack on an almost unprecedented basis for this country by President Trump and Steve Bannon, who, like Spencer, is a devotee of the alt-right movement.

Trump declared the media is the “enemy” of the American people.

Bannon went so far as to tell the New York Times, “You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

Well, if that means calling out racism and lies when we see it, sign me up for extended duty.

Spencer and those like him need to be heard by everyone, and then robustly shouted down with words and actions in every corner of this country. I believe millions more Americans than not are horrified by Spencer’s kind of overt racism and will realize they need to get in the game.

The bad guys are playing to win.

That’s the real emergency we face.


Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Sharon DeBriere

    October 17, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Excellent breakdown of who Nastyman is and is about. I have friends from the resistance going. I’m proud to know them but I’m worried about them to my toes. It’s no accident he chose Florida. It’s one of the most openly racist states I’ve ever lived in and I’ve lived in Texas and Kansas!

  • John Fleming

    October 17, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    I dont tolerate racism anywhere. It is the ultimate form of collrctivism.The correct way to handle this guy is to ignore him. His followers are a tiny minority.Please use a correct photo from your collection. What you show is a group of violent leftists attacking someone.

  • Kenneth Heatherman

    October 17, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Why can’t everyone just stay home?

Comments are closed.


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