Virginia gym revokes membership of white nationalist – 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