While FAIR continues to limit public access to its annual media and citizen lobbying event on Capitol Hill, white nationalists still appear to be welcome. It’s happened before, and this year’s installment was no different.
“Hold Their Feet to the Fire,” as the annual event is known, has occurred since 2007, and took place on April 15 and 16 this year in Washington, D.C. As in previous years, the event allows anti-immigrant activists with ties to FAIR to meet with the anti-immigrant movement’s most strident allies in Congress, law enforcement, and talk radio. The event also seeks to leverage talk radio to increase the salience of FAIR’s anti-immigrant policy goals and concerns in the media.
In its May 2015 newsletter, the flagship anti-immigrant organization in the U.S., the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), devoted a page to photographs from its recent event.
One of the photos featured in the “Hold Their Feet to the Fire in Pictures” section of the newsletter shows FAIR National Field Director Susan Tully talking with former Rep. Tom Tancredo and white nationalist activist Marcus Epstein, who once pleaded guilty to racially abusing and assaulting an African American woman.
While no stranger to bigotry herself, Susan Tully’s presence at FAIR’s annual event is to be expected given her position at FAIR. Tancredo’s attendance is unsurprising, as well. The group has continued to align itself with the former Member of Congress despite the fact that he has become increasingly irrelevant in the realm of immigration policy since leaving Congress to pursue a dead-on-arrival presidential campaign and two unsuccessful bids for governor of Colorado.
Epstein Attended FAIR Event Despite Limited Access
FAIR has taken significant steps in recent years to control who can attend its annual event, which was once more-or-less open to the public. A known white nationalist like Epstein almost certainly did not surreptitiously slip past security and start talking with prominent FAIR staffers. FAIR seems to have granted him access.
As a matter of public record, Tancredo’s history with Epstein is not something that FAIR could have ignored.
In an ill-fated attempt to bolster his longshot campaign for president in 2008, Tancredo would regularly feature at events on college campuses and other conservative gatherings organized by the now defunct Youth for Western Civilization, a campus network of white nationalist student groups. Epstein was formerly vice president of YWC.
Epstein’s involvement with organized white nationalism is not limited to YWC, though. Between 2003 and 2009, Epstein wrote scores of articles for the virulently anti-immigrant and anti-black online hub VDARE.com, for which several white nationalists write. Epstein was also an organizer for the Washington, D.C.-based Robert A. Taft Club. The Club would regularly host white nationalist speakers such as Jared Taylor at its meetings.
Epstein went on to work as a speechwriter for Tancredo’s presidential campaign and became executive director of Tancredo’s Team America PAC. In 2009, media reports revealed Epstein was arrested in 2007 for shouting racial slurs and physically attacking an elderly black woman with a “karate chop.” Despite the arrest, Tancredo stuck by Epstein and continued to employ him.
Tancredo and Epstein appear to have maintained their relationship over the years. FAIR, too, apparently takes no issue with including in its banner event a white nationalist with a history of racially motivated violence.
Tancredo isn’t clear of bigotry charges himself. During a radio interview at the event, Tancredo emphatically supported a moratorium on all Muslim immigration. During that same interview, Tancredo suggested that practicing Islam violates the Constitution and that he would make it “a deportable offense.”
FAIR’s Attempts to Distance Itself from Bigotry Fall (Very) Short
FAIR has attempted to publicly distance itself from its near 40-year history of connections to white nationalism and organized bigotry. This is a difficult task for a group whose founder, John Tanton, has claimed, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”
FAIR’s current president, Dan Stein, stated, “Immigrants don’t come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing.… Many of them hate America; hate everything that the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans.”
Whether the names appear on its payroll — Stein and Tully — or on its guest lists — Tancredo and Epstein — FAIR continues to prove that its past is its present.