The White Nationalists Who Support Donald Trump
Some Donald Trump supporters have become a campaign problem.
— -- Shiya Nwanguma, a junior at the University of Louisville, decided to attend a Donald Trump rally last week, though a supporter she is not. She had gone there instead to protest, as have so many like her.
"I have a right to protest against things that I'm in opposition to,” the black Kentucky student, 21, told ABC News. “I'm just protesting against the message that is spread through his campaign.”
She had seen some of his rallies before and knew how raucous the interactions between protesters and Trump supporters could become.
"I didn't expect anybody to break the law and assault me,” Nwanguma said of the alleged March 1 attack in Louisville. “I thought people would behave lawfully.”
What then happened has made the viral rounds. Nwanguma said she approached the stage with a sign depicting Trump's hair photoshopped on a pig. Trump supporters realized she was there to protest, so, as the candidate himself growled to "get them out,” they began to rip her signs, screaming at her and shoving her forcefully, she said. Ringing through her ears, piercing the noise of the crowd, were shouts of "n-----" and "c---,” Nwanguma added.
One Trump supporter was Matthew Heimbach, who doesn’t deny that he joined the shouting at Nwanguma.
He wrote on his blog the day after, “We didn’t go to disrupt the event, pitch our own political goals, or pick fights with the protesters. We attended because we wanted to witness a historic political event."
Heimbach, a 24-year-old bespectacled churchgoer, is a white separatist and founder of a white nationalist group, the Traditionalist Worker Party.
He is just one of a small group of extremists who have routinely flocked to Trump's rallies. Heimbach is often joined by self-proclaimed white advocates, white nationalists and even Neo-Nazi bloggers; the faithful whose support Trump says he does not want, but can't seem to shake.
The Trump campaign declined to comment for this article, but when asked previously about what he thought about white supremacists, Trump told CBS News, "I don't like any group of hate. Hate groups are not for me.”
When also asked in that interview about former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke’s unsolicited support, Trump said, "I can't help if he says it, if he says it. But I don't want it ... if he says it, he says it, okay? Do I want it? No."
Trump's response to the media to the question, "Are you a racist?" has been "I’m the least racist person." He has, on more than one occasion, also said that he disavows the KKK and Duke.
The Separatist Movement's Prominent Voice
On that Tuesday afternoon, Heimbach says, it was the protesters who were being disruptive. "Black Lives Matter are disruptive, violent and verbally abusive and have needed to be removed from events,” he told ABC News via email.
Video appears to show Nwanguma, who says she filed a police report and denies protesting on behalf of activist group Black Lives Matter, being pushed and shoved.
Heimbach tweeted a video that purported to show Nwanguma elbowing a Trump supporter in the ribs. But it actually shows Nwanguma’s sign being snatched and her arms being pulled down as one rally participant also grabs her by the shoulder, his arm partially around her neck.
Heimbach, who organizes white student unions on college campuses, is no stranger to controversy. He first appeared on ABC News in 2013, when producer Jasmine Brown and “Nightline” anchor Byron Pitts spent time with him as he set out to publicize his organization's goals.
He told them then that "Loving one's people is natural," he said. "Every other group is allowed to love their race for the best interest of their race. There's no reason why whites shouldn't."
When asked then whether he considered himself a racist, Heimbach said, "Sure. So what? I call it natural."
Now, Heimbach is still active within the group he created, striving for others, he says, to "embrace nationalism.” He says he worries that white Americans will soon become a minority class and advocates for an America of extreme segregation.
He says he does not endorse Trump because the front-running GOP presidential candidate is not a white nationalist, but he comes the closest to Heimbach’s views on immigration. “A rejection of politics as usual and establishment candidates by the American electorate is a good thing,” he added.
The White Nationalist Super PAC That Robocalls for Trump
By day, William Johnson is a corporate lawyer from Los Angeles. But in addition to keeping his silver hair neatly trimmed, he runs a white nationalist political party that the Southern Poverty Law Center says "wants to run racist candidates nationwide." Johnson says they’re running white nationalist candidates.
His party, the American Freedom Party, has a case for limited government and has its own candidate for president. But Johnson was so taken by Trump that he created a PAC just to support the New York businessman.
“Donald Trump has two of the three components that white nationalists support: He's a populist and he wants to control our borders and that's good for us," Johnson told ABC News.
He bristles at the label of white supremacist. "I'm not a white supremacist. The white race has a lot of defects going on, only the white race is giving up its people," he said, referring to the influx of immigrants he says is coming into the United States and Europe.
Johnson was so taken with Trump that his PAC, the American National Super PAC, recorded in his voice and sent out robocalls in Utah, Minnesota and Vermont after Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, addressed the nation last week in an anti-Trump tirade.
An excerpt from the call said, “This robocall goes out to all millennials and others who are honest in all their dealings. Mitt Romney has viciously attacked Donald Trump. ... The white race is being replaced by other peoples in America and in all white countries. Donald Trump stands strong as a nationalist."
Johnson says that some of his compatriots have been emboldened by Trump's rise but says the prominence cuts both ways.
"We get a lot more persecution now because of Trump's running for office. Some people are emboldened and some people are cowed," he said.
Johnson said he believes all immigration should be outlawed and almost all nonwhites should be deported, and claimed in a 1985 book that race mixing and diversity have caused social and cultural degeneration in the United States.
Asked by ABC News whether he considers himself a racist, he said, "The traditional definition of racism is you want to control other people. I don't think any white people want that. White people, as a whole, want to be fair towards other people. Other people are more racist than white people are. Only white people can be called racist and I think that's unfair."
ABC News also spoke with Jared Taylor, who identifies himself as a "white advocate” and says he argues for the interests of white people. The Yale-educated scholar is the editor of online magazine American Renaissance, which espouses these same beliefs.
"Many whites are secretly delighted by Donald Trump's policies because they would slow the process of dispossession,” Taylor told ABC News. “Sending home all illegals -- the huge majority of whom are nonwhites -- and putting even a temporary halt on Muslim immigration are in the interests of whites, whether Trump thinks in those terms or not.”
Trump has also been endorsed by Neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer, in addition to the support from Duke.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks U.S. hate groups, says such support is no accident.
"He's appealing to the same constituency that the Ku Klux Klan appeals to," Potok said. "Not every supporter is sympathetic to them but that is the very same demographic."
He notes that many of Trump's supporters are white, lower-middle class people who are "under a lot of economic pressure."
"He uses the same techniques, he hypes up the fear of the outsider, [the idea that] Muslims are out to destroy us, immigrants are rapists. Whether or not he is truly a white nationalist, I think is totally irrelevant," he said.
Of course, such views aren't represented by all within Trump's base and very few would probably identify themselves outright as nationalists.
'How Can You Do It Without Discrimination?'
Kim, a mother of three from Tustin, Michigan, attended a recent Trump rally in Cadillac, Michigan. She pushed back on the notion that she or any other Trump supporter is a bigot, emphatically telling ABC News, "I'm not prejudiced."
When asked about critics who say Trump promotes discrimination, she pointed to her support for his proposed temporary ban on Muslims. “It’s really not discrimination," she said.
But, she added, pensively, "How can you do it without people saying it’s discrimination?"
Stephen, a Trump supporter from Columbus, Ohio, says he doesn't agree with all of Trump's comments.
"If Trump actually does put a ban on Muslims, I would personally disagree with that," Stephen said. "As a Christian, I do see that would set a precedent for future presidents to put a ban on anybody of any kind of specific faith that they think is detrimental or a threat to our security."
Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, says supporters like Stephen should denounce the more incendiary parts of Trump's proposals.
"Those who support him on just a few positions should get out there and say that," said Potok.
For Kentucky student Nwanguma, her experience is not singular. At another rally on Tuesday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as three black protesters were being taken out, shouts of "n-----" can be heard on this cellphone video.
She says her beliefs about Trump's base have been solidified. "I guess my worst fears were actualized," she said when asked whether she believes Trump’s language is inherently prejudice.
"You can put two and two together,” she said, “people called me racial slurs and attacked me for no reason."