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GOP candidate explains 'white genocide' comment

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A candidate for the Kentucky House of Representatives is accused of sending an anti-Semitic Facebook message and possibly having ties to neo-Nazi Richard Spencer.

Northern Kentucky Republican TJ Roberts is denying those allegations and what he calls a “smear campaign” against him as he runs in a GOP primary for an open seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

At the center of the controversy: Roberts' meeting with a prominent white nationalist and his use of the phrase “white genocide,” a conspiracy theory that says Jewish people and other groups are plotting to wipe out white culture and race.

Roberts, of Burlington, is running for office in a Republican-leaning district that includes most of northern Boone County along the Ohio River near Cincinnati.

Despite having a supermajority in Kentucky, a split in the Republican Party has pitted GOP candidates against each other – establishment Republicans against new political hopefuls who emerged after Donald Trump's 2020 presidential loss.

Roberts, a 26-year-old first-time candidate, is running against Ed Massey, who was elected state representative in 2018 and lost in the 2022 Republican primary with just over 30% of the vote.

He lost to Steve Rawlings, R-Burlington, a political newcomer with more conservative views. Rawlings is running in a contested primary for an open state Senate seat rather than seeking re-election in the House.

Facebook message “White Genocide.”

About seven years ago, when Roberts was about 19, he moderated a libertarian Facebook group and removed a post that he said contained “obviously terrible statements.” Then someone emailed him a post and Roberts said he reiterated that he was not promoting anti-Semitism

“I remember he got mad at me for that,” Roberts recalled in an interview with The Enquirer.

This person recently provided a screenshot of part of this message investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which first reported the incident.

The nonprofit legal organization focuses on civil rights and racism. It tracks hate groups, has a news site called Hatewatch and employs more than 100 lawyers and attorneys.

In it, Roberts used internet slang to say that he was not on the side of the Jewish people.

“I am a religious Christian and frankly I am tired of them promoting white genocide,” he wrote.

Roberts told The Enquirer he was not referring to Jewish people and said some of his ancestors were Jewish. As far as not being “on the side” of the Jewish people, he said he mocked someone online who made anti-Semitic comments.

“Of course, I wish I had phrased this better to better convey my sarcasm to third-party readers. “I stand by my statement that this conversation is completely taken out of context and is being used to convey beliefs that I do not currently hold, nor have I ever held,” he said.

Handshake with the “repulsive” Richard Spencer

Roberts admits that about six years ago he shook hands with well-known neo-Nazi Richard Spencer during a conference and sat at a table with him in a bar. Roberts said he often shakes hands with people he meets, regardless of whether he agrees with them on certain issues.

In Spencer's case, Roberts said he took the opportunity to disagree with Spencer's views.

He said: “I think he is a disgusting person. I also believe that simply being violent towards another person is not the way to go. …Do I agree with him? No.”

A video of the conversation shows the introduction. The sound is difficult to hear.

Spencer is an outspoken white nationalist speaker and leader who advocates neo-Nazi ideology and racism. He said white people needed an “ethnostate,” a territory just for themselves. He told The Washington Post in 2016 that the making could be “terribly bloody and horrific.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Spencer was invited to the conference by the Hoppe Caucus, a far-right libertarian group.

What do Roberts' supporters say?

Boone County Commissioner Chet Hand, chairman of the Boone County Republican Party, publicly endorsed Roberts for office earlier this week. His support for Roberts remains steadfast despite the allegations.

“Unlike many people in his age group, TJ is very aware of what is going on in the world political environment, in Frankfort and in Boone County. … He has been a vocal advocate for limited federal and constitutional freedoms for the American people and for the people of Kentucky,” Hand said.

He said people like to accuse Republicans of white nationalism or racism, but he has never met a GOP member with those views in Northern Kentucky.

“I think that these concepts of white nationalism and white supremacy have been made into much more than actually exists,” he told The Enquirer.

He said the Southern Poverty Law Center's article about Roberts was written by an organization that is one of the “most hateful and hate-oriented organizations in the world” and should not be viewed as credible.

The center defended its reporting, saying in a statement: “We are proud of our work at the SPLC to tirelessly expose those who seek to mainstream hateful and harmful extremist ideologies.”

Online, Roberts has received both support and ridicule for the allegations.

The Kentucky Republican Party declined an interview request but said in an emailed comment: “The Kentucky Republican Party unequivocally condemns white nationalism and anti-Semitism in all its forms. Neither has a place in the Republican Party.”