Old Town Sport & Health – A Membership Revoked – May 2017

Alexandria, VA

Carol Christine Fair, an associate professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, confronted white nationalist Richard Spencer at a local gym in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 17, 2017. After the incident, the gym, Old Town Sport & Health, revoked Spencer’s membership.

Key Figures

Carol Christine Fair is an associate professor in the Center for Peace and Security Studies within Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She previously attracted publicity following the publication on November 10, 2016, of an op-ed in The Washington Post by Asra Q. Nomani titled I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump. Nomani filed a formal complaint with the University alleging that Fair had harassed her online following the publication of her article. Fair finished her criticisms of Nomani by writing, “So again, Ms. Nomani, F**K YOU. GO TO HELL.” According to a Facebook post Fair wrote, in the latest incident, she “loudly” confronted Richard Spencer at a gym in Alexandria where they were both exercising, and he initially denied his identity. Spencer asked a nearby trainer to help end the conflict, and another woman stepped in to defend him.  Fair wrote that she told the woman, “Right now, you’re being ignorant and you’re actually enabling a real-life Nazi.” A manager eventually stepped in to end the altercation.

Richard Spencer is the president and director of the National Policy Institute, a think tank dedicated to “the heritage, identity, and future of  people of European descent,” according to the organization’s website.  In November 2016, Spender addressed a National Policy Institute convention and shouted “Hail Trump!” in a manner that provoked members of his audience to give a Nazi-like salute.  In January 2017, Spencer was punched in the face by a masked assailant during President Trump’s inauguration.

Further details

Fair wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post after the incident at the gym, in which she justified her actions and articulated her specific grievances with Spencer’s desire for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” and his comparison of contemporary America to pre-World War II Germany.

The gym did not cite a reason for its decision to suspend Spencer’s membership. Spencer appears to have decided not to sue the gym for doing so..

In the wake of the incident, National Review published an article condemning Fair’s treatment of both Nomani and Spencer. The article positions the Free Speech debate as a left v right conflict. It argues that the free speech rights of both Nomani and Spencer must be defended because otherwise, conservatives are simply encouraging the left’s behavior.

Fair wrote a Tumblr post after the event further defending her actions. She argued that the general manager of the gym is responsible for providing a safe work environment for his employees (of whom a significant portion are minorities), and that allowing Spencer in “undermined” that effort.  

External References:

Muslim woman who voted for Trump asks Georgetown to intervene over professor’s ‘hateful, vulgar’ messages, The Washington Post

Georgetown professor confronts white nationalist Richard Spencer at the gym – which terminates his membership, The Washington Post

I confronted Richard Spencer at my gym. Racists don’t get to lift in peace., The Washington Post

Richard Spencer has gym membership revoked after woman confronts him for being ‘neo-Nazi’, The Independent

Georgetown prof who confronted Richard Spencer at gym not shy attacking opponents, NOLA.com

Liberal Bullies Threaten Free Speech, National Review

“I anticipate being kicked out of from our gym…” C. Christine Fair, Tumblr.com

Prepared by Graham Piro ’18

September 11, 2017

Texas House of Representatives – A Brawl on the Floor – May 2017

Austin, TX

Texas State Representative Matt Rinaldi called federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to deal with a group of protesters in the gallery of the House of Representatives in the Texas State Capitol Building. The demonstrators were objecting to Senate Bill 4, which banned the declaration of “sanctuary cities” in the state, where undocumented immigrants could be protected from federal law enforcement officers. Exchanges between the lawmakers became heated, and there was extensive pushing and shoving. Democratic State Representative Justin Rodriguez stated in a press conference after the incident that Rinaldi had threatened “to put a bullet in one of my colleague’s heads.” Rinaldi claimed afterwards that Democratic State Representative Poncho Nevárez had “threatened my life on the House floor.”

Key Figures

Matt Rinaldi, Texas State Representative (R): Rinaldi was elected in 2014 representing a northern Dallas district. When the protests began at around 11 am on Monday, May 29, 2017, in the form of the protesters chanting their opposition to the bill from the gallery, Rinaldi told his fellow lawmakers he had called ICE to deal with them. One Democratic representative said later that Rinaldi had told him, “We’re going to have them deported,” before using an obscenity. After this, representatives began pushing and shouting at each other on the floor. Later, Rinaldi wrote in a Facebook post that he made the claim he would shoot Nevárez in self-defense. He added that he was currently under Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) protection.

Poncho Nevárez, Texas State Representative (D): Nevárez was elected in 2012 representing a district in McLennan County, where the city of Waco is located. After the incident, Nevárez denied threatening Rinaldi’s life. In an appearance on CNN, he said that Rinaldi did threaten to “put a bullet in my brain.”

Justin Rodriguez, Texas State Representative (D): Rodriguez was elected in 2012 representing a San Antonio district. Rodriguez spoke about the incident at a press conference where he confirmed Rinaldi’s threat to Nevárez.

Further details

Senate Bill 4 banned sanctuary cities in Texas, gave police officers the ability to question anyone they pulled over about the individual’s citizenship status, and obligated local law enforcement officials to cooperate with federal requests to detain individuals in state and local facilities. The bill had been signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) earlier in the month. Nevárez later denied threatening Rinaldi’s life. He acknowledged that the protesters had become “unruly,” but maintained that this was because that they did not know the rules of the House Chamber.

ICE did not comment on whether it had responded to the incident. Texas DPS responded and cleared the gallery of the protesters. There were no lasting repercussions for any of the lawmakers involved.

On August 30, 2017, according to The New York Times, a federal judge in San Antonio blocked S.B. 4 from taking effect. Judge Orlando L. Garcia, of U. S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, wrote that “SB 4 clearly targets and seeks to punish speakers based on their viewpoint on local immigration enforcement policy.” He also said the law was unconstitutionally vague, and would foster “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement against disfavored localities.” The ruling is temporary and is likely to be appealed.

External Resources

A Texas Republican is accused of threatening to ‘put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads,’ The Washington Post

Texas Lawmakers Threatens to Shoot Colleague After Reporting Protesters to ICE, The New York Times

Representative Rinaldi’s Facebook Post

Texas Dem denies threatening colleague on legislature floor, The Hill

Republican lawmaker: I called immigration authorities on Capitol protesters, The Texas Tribune

Federal Judge Blocks Texas’ Ban on ‘Sanctuary Cities,’” The New York Times

By Graham Piro ‘18

September 6, 2017

Solidcore – An Unexpected Patron – February 2017

Washington, DC

Anne Mahlum, the founder of Solidcore, an exercise studio popular among a range of professionals, publicly revealed that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, had attended a class under an alias. In a Facebook post on February 9, 2017, Mahlum wrote that she had requested a meeting with Ivanka, and that Ivanka’s father, President Trump, is “threatening the rights of many of my beloved clients and coaches.” She later deleted the post, but received criticism for publicly revealing that Ivanka was attending a class under an alias. She subsequently clarified her statement that she had intended to offer private classes to Ivanka, which had been a common practice with other high-profile clients in the past.

Key Figures

Anne Mahlum founded Solidcore in 2013. According to the Washington Examiner, its first gym opened that year in Washington, D.C., and the company has since expanded to 25 different locations around the country, from North Dakota to Texas. Seven more studios are planned, according to its website. By late 2016, the company employed 16 full-time coaches and more than 100 part-time employees. Its website advertises a “high-intensity, low-impact” exercise, and also lists the company’s exercise studio locations.

Ivanka Trump is the daughter of President Donald Trump. She is one of his advisors and is married to Jared Kushner, also a powerful senior advisor to the president.

Further Details

Mahlum wrote the Facebook post on February 9 and then deleted it the next day. It read,

“What [do] you do when you find out Ivanka Trump just took [Solidcore], but used an alias to sign up for class? You reach out and ask for a meeting. While I don’t know her and I always seek to understand … I do know her father is threatening the rights of many of my beloved clients and coaches and as a business owner, I take my responsibility to protect and fight for my people very seriously.”

Ivanka Trump did not respond to Mahlum’s request for a meeting.

The incident regarding Mahlum’s gym occurred shortly after Nordstrom announced that it was dropping Ivanka Trump’s clothing line due to poor sales. On February 2, 2017, Bloomberg reported that Nordstrom’s announcement was also related to the threat of boycotts of her brand and potential conflicts of interest with her role in the Trump administration. One customer had published an open letter asking Nordstrom to drop Ivanka’s line in November of 2016, to which Nordstrom responded that, “We hope that offering a vendor’s products isn’t misunderstood as us taking a political position; we’re not.”

Michelle Obama was a noteworthy patron of Solidcore, and Fox News reports that Mahlum had previously bragged about Obama’s participation, implying that she played political favorites among her customers.

Mahlum told the Examiner that her post was an attempt to set up private workouts with Trump, as had been the practice for “high-profile clients” in the past. “I reached out to Ivanka in hopes of having a discussion about our community, and to suggest that we set up private classes for her in the future, which is what we have done for other high-profile clients. Ivanka is welcome at [Solidcore] and we hope she comes back,” Mahlum said in a statement after deleting her initial post.

The Washington Post reported that Mahlum took “full responsibility” for the incident, and noted that “It’s important to know that at no point did [Mahlum] say that Ivanka would not be able to attend [Solidcore] classes and service was not denied to her.” She added, “Our clients represent a spectrum of different races, religions, sexual orientations and political beliefs, all of whom are welcome here proudly.”

Users on Twitter called Mahlum a “bully.” An opinion piece published in the Washington Examiner described her as an “opportunist,” and accused her of trying “to score free publicity by ginning up outrage.”


Solidcore gym owner clarifies previous statement, Ivanka Trump not denied services

Anne Mahlum clarified that Ivanka Trump was welcome at Solidcore, and that she did not intend to prevent Trump from attending Solidcore classes.

External References

Ivanka Trump Gets Called Out by Gym Owner for Attending Workout Class, Fox News

Solidcore gym founder calls out Ivanka Trump after workout, Washington Examiner

The founder of Solidcore found out Ivanka Trump visited her studio. Now she wants to meet with the first daughter, The Washington Post

About, Solidcore

Solidcore founder faces backlash after revealing that she requested a sit-down with client Ivanka Trump, The Washington Post

Solidcore gym owner is caught in a pickle: ‘Ivanka is welcome’ here, Washington Examiner

Rude: Solidcore founder lectures Ivanka but welcomed Michelle Obama, Washington Examiner

Nordstrom Is Cutting Ivanka Trump’s Brand Due to Poor Sales, Bloomberg

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

September 1, 2017

Baltimore Book Festival – A Disinvitation – 2017

Baltimore, MD

The Baltimore Book Festival cancelled a planned appearance by Rachel Dolezal, whose invitation had sparked controversy in the community and inspired an online petition calling for her disinvitation. The book festival takes place on September 22-24, 2017. The online petition, which asked the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) to rescind the invitation, garnered more than 100 signatures.

Important Figures:

Rachel Dolezal earned national media attention in July 2015, when it was revealed by her parents that she had been born white. Dolezal, who was then head of the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), insisted that she identified as black and had not tried to deceive anyone. Dolezal responded to the national media outcry by saying that she “wouldn’t say I’m African-American, but I would say I’m black, and there’s a difference in those terms,” according to a CNN report. Dolezal told CNN that she believes “black is a culture, a philosophy, a political and social view,” adding later that she feels that “race is a social construct.” Dolezal previously worked part-time as a faculty member in the African Education Program at Eastern Washington University. She was reportedly fired from this position after her actions drew national attention. Additionally, Dolezal stepped down as the head of the Spokane NAACP chapter. Her appearance at the Baltimore Book Festival was intended to promote her book, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.” In 2017, Dolezal changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo, a West African saying that means, “gift from the gods.”

The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts is a publicly funded, non-profit organization that offers financial and logistical support to artists in Baltimore. It holds several art-related events throughout the year, including the Baltimore Book Festival.

Further Details:

According to The Baltimore Sun, in a statement announcing the decision to rescind Dolezal’s invitation, BOPA wrote:

A top priority of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts is to listen to our constituents, and after hearing from a cross-section of opinions on having Rachel Dolezal participate in this year’s festival, we had to consider how her appearance may affect both the audience and the other extraordinary authors we have planned for the Baltimore Book Festival. For that reason, we believe it would be appropriate to remove Ms. Dolezal from the festival line up.”

Kimberley Mooney started the online petition to have Dolezal disinvited. Mooney is a middle school teacher in Baltimore and told the Sun that she was elated at BOPA’s ultimate decision. However, Tessa Hill-Aston, President of the NAACP’s Baltimore branch, said that she believed that Dolezal should not have been disinvited. “The biggest problem we have is when we shut down dialogue. We need to learn how to connect and communicate with one another,” she said, according to the Sun.

In February 2017, The Guardian reported that Dolezal is unemployed and is feeding her family with the help of food stamps. The article also stated that she has applied for more than 100 jobs, but has not been successful.


Dolezal Disinvited

Rachel Dolezal was excluded from the Baltimore Book Festival, where she had been invited to promote her new book, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.” An online petition had asked the BOPA to disinvite her.

External References:

Rachel Dolezal on being black: “I didn’t deceive anybody,” CNN

Rachel Dolezal: “Race is a social construct,” CNN

About Us, BOPA

Baltimore Book Festival cancels Rachel Dolezal appearance after backlash, The Baltimore Sun

Rachel Dolezal: “I’m not going to stoop and apologize and grovel,” The Guardian

Africana Studies Program, Eastern Washington University

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

August 30, 2017

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Saudi Arabia – May 2017

Saudi Arabia

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross recounted to Becky Quick, a CNBC anchor, that there was not “a single hint of a protester” in Saudi Arabia when President Trump visited there in May. Quick pointed out that the lack of protesters is likely due to the Saudi government’s suppression of free speech, to which Ross responded that this explanation could be true “in theory.”

Important Figures:

Wilbur Ross serves as secretary of commerce in the administration of President Donald Trump. Ross accompanied Trump on his first international trip, which included Saudi Arabia as the first stop. Previously, Ross headed Rothschild Inc.’s bankruptcy practice for 25 years. In 2000, he started his own investment firm, WL Ross & Co. He sold the firm in 2006 for approximately $375 million. In November 2016, President Trump appointed Ross to his cabinet.

Further Details:

The full exchange between Ross and Quick regarding his visit to Saudi Arabia can be found below, as reported by CNBC.

Ross: There’s no question that they’re liberalizing their society. And I think the other thing that was fascinating to me: There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard. Instead…

Quick: But Secretary Ross, that may be not necessarily because they don’t have those feelings there, but because they control people and don’t allow them to come and express their feelings quite the same as we do here.

Ross: In theory, that could be true, but boy there was certainly no sign of it. There was not a single effort at any incursion. There wasn’t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood. And at the end of the trip, as I was getting back on the plane, the security guards from the Saudi side who’d been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo op. And then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates as a present, as a thank you for the trip that we had had. That was a pretty from-the-heart very genuine gesture and it really touched me.

In 2016, a report from the U.S. Department of State on Saudi Arabia noted that the Saudi government specifically forbids participating in “unauthorized public assemblies” or political protests, reports The Guardian. “Protesting is a serious offence in Saudi Arabia. It’s been de facto criminalised for many, many years, and specifically criminalised since 2011,” Adam Coogle, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian. He continued, “The stakes for protesting are extremely high. No one wants to sit in jail for ten years because they protested Trump.”


Ross Receives Criticism for Statements

Wilbur Ross was criticized for remarks that seemed to applaud the lack of civil liberties in Saudi Arabia. An article in The Nation described Ross as a “disgrace” for his comments, writing, “Wilbur Ross is sending signals that harm the cause of human rights in Saudi Arabia and internationally.

External References:

Human rights activists criticize US praise for lack of Saudi Arabia Protests, The Guardian

Wilbur Ross surprised there were no protests in Saudi Arabia, Politico

Wilbur Ross is happy that the Saudis didn’t protest Trump — but he misses a critical point, CNBC

Wilbur Ross, Jr., Forbes

Wilbur Ross Is a Disgrace to Himself and His Country, The Nation

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

August 30, 2017