The bouncers wore khakis.
Outside a residential building in Alexandria, Virginia, sandy-haired young men of below-average height and dressed like they were going golfing consulted a clipboard whereupon a list of names so short that it could’ve easily been memorized had been written out by hand. My name wasn’t on it, and the person in charge wasn’t answering Khaki Bouncer No. 1’s calls, so Khaki Bouncer No. 2 began scrawling it down at the bottom, and then it was like I had been on the list all along.
Up the ramp, past the sign that warned of security cameras, was a room that held two metal shelves stacked with business cards that read, “What is the alt-right? Take the red pill,” and multiple copies of the same books, like Essential Writings on Race by Samuel T. Francis, the late white-supremacist writer and editor, and Race Differences in Intelligence, by Richard Lynn, a British psychology professor and avowed eugenicist.
Through the doorway was the kitchen, where a pot of hardboiled eggs sat on the stove, which was turned off. There was an open laptop, a reusable Whole Foods bag, and other mundane signs of life: spare change and snacks strewn across the counter, open water bottles, empty glasses, and so on. Nearby were two coffee mugs that featured the president’s name and/or likeness, one of which was filled with pens and markers.
Reporters were asked to describe this location as the personal office of Richard Spencer, the white nationalist and de facto leader of the alt-right. Spencer had been planning on holding a Monday press conference at the Willard Hotel in Washington, but the hotel canceled, forcing him to improvise, which is how a bunch of reporters and photographers ended up crowded here, sitting on his chairs, or standing on the oriental rug, or (my personal choice) observing from the staircase. Spencer is from Whitefish, Montana, if you can believe it, but his “think tank,” the blandly named National Policy Institute, must exist in close proximity to the nation’s capital, so, as BuzzFeed reported, he got a place in the D.C. suburbs, upsetting members of this neighborhood even though, as he told those assembled Monday, he’s only here “part time.”
Spencer and Nathan Damigo, the founder of Identity Evropa, a white-supremacist organization, both wanted to address the press — and their supporters, who viewed the event on Persicope — in response to the violent white-nationalist and far-right demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman was killed and others were injured over the weekend when a car steered by a 20-year-old neo-Nazi crashed into a group of counterprotesters.
James Fields, who’s been charged with murder, traveled from Ohio to be at the rally. In his mug shot, his hair is styled just like Spencer’s — cut short on the sides, and long on top — a so-called “fashy.”
On a Facebook page that reportedly belongs to Fields, he shared images associated with the alt-right, including a baby picture of Hitler and a meme of Pepe the Frog. As Spencer and Damigo spoke, an inflatable green frog looked down at them from a shelf across the room. Below it was a red MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat, a megaphone, and a rugby ball.
Spencer spent considerable time blaming the police for the violence on Saturday, not Fields, whom he said he’d “never heard of.”
“I am not going to condemn this young man at this point,” he told us, explaining that he wanted the investigation to be completed first, and allowing for the possibility that Fields isn’t guilty of murder because perhaps he unintentionally ran people over, although that is not how driving works in my experience. For his part, Damigo later told The Atlantic he was “disappointed” in the president for jumping “to conclusions as to what happened, because simply, we don’t know the facts yet.”
After the president was broadly criticized for attributing Saturday’s violence to “many sides,” Trump finally specifically condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists on Monday. But Spencer said those remarks were “Kumbaya nonsense,” and he seemed certain that the president wasn’t talking about him or the alt-right when he referred to “other hate groups.” Spencer explained at one point that Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, two senior White House officials, might potentially be characterized as his fellow travelers. Asked for comment, Miller told me, “As I have said on numerous occasions, I strongly condemn Spencer, his cohorts, and his views.” Bannon didn’t respond on the record.
Spencer also said that he didn’t think the president even meant what he said on Monday. To that, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We have been clear what our position is.”
The press conference concluded when everyone ran out of questions to ask. On the way out, Spencer offered bottles of water, which he instructed Khaki Bouncer No. 1 to hand out.