Publicly opposing Donald Trump left one conservative commentator and his family facing an endless barrage of online abuse from the so-called “alt-right,” the anti-establishment conservative movement known for its close ties to white nationalism and for its internet-savvy adherents’ coordinated attacks on political and media figures.
David French, a columnist for National Review, and his wife Nancy French, a columnist for the Washington Post, have come under what French called “an unending torrent of abuse that I wouldn’t wish on anyone” in a column published Friday. He describes how, more than a year ago, he began seeing images of his daughter’s face photoshopped into gas chambers or slave ships, and how the comment section of his wife’s blog on Patheos filled with images of extreme violence.
French’s adopted daughter is black and was called “niglet” and “dindu” by French’s online harassers, who also claimed his wife cheated on him with black men while he was deployed to Iraq. It’s a common charge among far-right internet trolls who often accuse others of being cuckolded, both sexually and ideologically.
French recounts how, immediately after he declined to mount an independent run for president, his wife received an email from a Trump supporter “who informed her that he knew the business end of a gun and told her directly that she should shut her mouth or he’d take action.”
In another incident, French wrote that a phone call between his wife and her elderly father was interrupted by a third angry voice on the call, spurring “a brief, anxious search inside my father-in-law’s home for a potential intruder and yet another call to law enforcement.”
French noted that other conservatives have faced similar abuse: commentator Erick Erickson, strategist Rick Wilson, columnist Bethany Mandel, Mi-Ai Parrish, president of the Arizona Republic, and journalist Ben Shapiro. French wrote that Shapiro, who the Anti-Defamation League recently found has the Twitter account most frequently targeted by anti-Semitic attacks, “represents the worst of all possible anti-Trumpers” because “he’s a Jewish man who turned on the twin pillars of the alt-right, Trump, and Breitbart.com.”
The Trump campaign has stayed incredibly quiet about the barrage of abuse journalists and political figures have reported from individuals swearing their allegiance to Trump.
In May, after journalist Julia Ioffe published a profile of Melania Trump that she says led to a barrage of anti-Semitic death threats, Trump said that while she disagreed with the abuse, “I don’t control my fans,” and, referring to Ioffe, “She provoked them.”
A month later, after New York Observer entertainment writer Dana Schwartz wrote “An Open Letter to Jared Kushner, From One of Your Jewish Employees,” asking Kushner to speak out against the anti-Semitic abuse propagated by some supporters of his father-in-law’s campaign, Kushner responded in the publication. He wrote of Schwartz’s letter, “As always, there are thoughtful points but journalists, even those who work for me at the Observer, are not always right.”