Nazi salutes ‘done in a spirit of irony and exuberance,’ alt-right leader says

At a conference over the weekend, alt-right ideologue Richard Spencer finished his speech, shouting “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” from a lectern. His audience of more than 200 people, mostly men, responded with cheers and a smattering of Nazi salutes.

The remarks happened at the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, held Saturday at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. Spencer popularized the so-called “alt-right” movement, which aims to preserve white identity, block multiculturalism and promote so-called “European” values. The group holds bigoted views and is associated with Neo-Nazism.

The Atlantic released a video Monday with excerpts from Spencer’s speech, which was laced with anti-Semitic rhetoric.

“One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem,” he said in his speech.

Spencer also made a reference to media as “Lugenpresse,” invoking a German expression — meaning “lying press” — to attack media critics. At the end of his closing speech, several men held out their arms in a Nazi salute.

When P.J. Tobia, NewsHour’s Foreign Affairs & Defense producer, texted Spencer about the Nazi salutes seen at his speech, Spencer said they were “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.”

During an interview with President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon, Mike Grynbaum of the New York Times released the following tweets:

When Times reporters also specifically asked Trump about the D.C. conference, he said, “I disavow and condemn them.”

And yesterday, in response to the alt-right conference, the Trump transition team released the following statement: “President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”

Video by The Atlantic

After footage from the conference surfaced yesterday, the Holocaust Museum issued a statement condemning the “hateful rhetoric” at the white nationalist conference, including the “direct and indirect” allusions to Nazism.

“The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words,” the museum wrote. “The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.”

The museum also said Nazism extended to other groups, targeting a mosaic of victims for racial reasons.

On Friday, the NPI hosted a dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy, a restaurant in the District, before the start of the white nationalist conference. The restaurant said it closed for safety reasons when protesters arrived to confront the white nationalists. One photo, circulated on Twitter, showed attendees that night giving a Nazi salute.

“This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us,” the restaurant said in an apology on Facebook on Monday.

The restaurant also said that it was a “last-minute booking,” whose “reservation was made under a different name, therefore we were not aware that NPI was dining with us or what the group represents.” The restaurant added that it was donating $10,000, its Friday sales, to the Anti-Defamation League’s D.C. office.

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