Why are NYC Republican Elites Enabling Far-Right Violence?

The private club that hosted the Proud Boys’ Gavin McInnes. A host of NYC Republican elites are tied to the club, which has hosted numerous other speakers with ties to the far right and white nationalists.

Donald Trump’s presidency has given white nationalists an opening to become more mainstream political actors – and also emboldened far-right extremists to commit the kinds of horrific violence we saw at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Republican Club, a supposed bastion of the “moderate” NYC GOP, is giving these elements a platform and aiding their quest to become the violent arm of Trump’s movement.

Earlier this month, on October 12, the Metropolitan Republican Club, a social club for NYC Republicans, hosted Gavin McInnes. McInnes is known for his white nationalist and anti-Muslim views and for founding the Proud Boys, an extremist hate group.

The Proud Boys were one of the groups involved in the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last year. After the event on October 12, his supporters stormed out of the club on the upper east side, many wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats, and assaulted counter-protesters on the streets of Manhattan.

While some New York Republicans like gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro expressed embarrassment over McInnes’s appearance at the club after the violence, his presence at a “mainstream” New York City Republican establishment exposes the extent to which hate and an incitement to violence are becoming normalized by the Republican Party in New York during the Trump years.

The Metropolitan Republican Club is no renegade organization; it’s a regular hangout for NY Republicans. Here are some of the “mainstream” GOPers tied to the club that hosted McInnis:

  • Pete Holmberg. Holmberg is a NY Senate candidate for District 29 who uses the club as his campaign headquarters. Club president Debbie Coughlin has donated to him. While Holmberg denounced graffiti that was scrawled on the club on his Twitter account, he doesn’t appear to have issued any clear criticism of the Proud Boys violence.  
  • Ed Cox. Cox, who has been the chairman of the New York Republican State Committee since 2009, spoke at an event at the club in May. Cox is a member of the Republican National Committee, and he was John McCain’s state chairman during his 2008 presidential campaign. He is the board chair of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and he has been a board member of Noble Energy since 1984.
  • Andrea Catsimatidis. Catsimatidis is the head of the Manhattan Republican Party. She defended the club for hosting McInnes while rallying against “antifa” on Twitter. She is the daughter of John Catsimatidis, the billionaire head of the Red Apple Group, a real estate investment firm that owns Gristedes Foods, as well as oil refineries and gas stations.
  • Jeff Ascherman. Another club member, Dr. Jeff Ascherman, is running for State Assembly to represent Manhattan’s East Side – where the club is located. Ascherman has not tweeted or issued any statement on the club’s invitation to McGinnis or the Proud Boys violence.
  • Ian Reilly & Marty Goldman. The club’s chairman is Ian Reilly, office manager for NY State Senator Marty Golden. Golden has not tweeted or issued any statement on the club’s invitation to McGinnis or the Proud Boys violence, nor does he seem to have commented on his staffer’s central role at the club.
  • Peter Hein. Hein is a club member and a well-known lawyer at the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. He is a major Republican donor, having given over $300,000 to republican causes and candidates.

McInnes may be the only speaker hosted by the Metropolitan Republican Club whose supporters executed violent attacks, but this is not the first time an extremist has spoken there. Past speakers have included Ann Coulter and Pamela Geller, the president of an Islamophobic hate group, Stop Islamization of AmericaWallace Bruschweiler, a little-known, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist, has also spoken at the club.

In August, the club hosted Michael Rectenwald, an “anti-PC” NYU professor who created a Twitter handle – @antipcnyuprof – that allowed him to “tweet in the guise of an alt-righter.” This week, even in the face of the Pittsburgh attack, Michael Rectenwald is bringing alt-right provocateur and anti-Semite Milo Yiannopoulos to speak with his class (he’s even live-streaming Yiannopoulos’s talk).

GOP and Fox News mainstays such as Tucker Carlson, Lindsey Graham, and Monica Crowley have also spoken at the club.

Yesterday, 14 protesters were arrested as they held a sit-in at the Metropolitan Republican Club to denounce its embrace of violent white nationalists. The public figures who are connected to the club who refuse to denounce its enabling of far-right violence – particularly those who fashion themselves as “moderates” – should be held accountable.