A K-State student who was accused of having ties to white nationalism in an advocacy group’s report last Tuesday is saying those claims are false.
Jaden McNeil — a sophomore at K-State and founder and president of the campus organization America First Students — denied allegations that he and his conservative organization are fronts for a white nationalist initiative to spread across the country’s colleges.
“(N)either I nor America First Students represent white nationalism in any way, shape or form,” McNeil said in a statement released on Twitter Friday. “AFS is a mainstream, Christian, conservative organization that supports President Donald Trump.”
Last Tuesday, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a Kansas City-based advocacy organization, released a report claiming that white nationalists were using McNeil’s group, which he founded in January, as a test run for a broader initiative to build white nationalist support across the nation.
White nationalism describes an ideology that advocates for a return to what followers call a “traditional” white American identity. As such, white nationalists condemn immigration, particularly from non-white countries, as well as gay marriage, which threatens their idea of the typical American nuclear family.
It differs from white supremacy, which specifically asserts the idea of white superiority over other races, although there is overlap between the ideologies.
The institute’s report alleges that while McNeil does not have an explicit history of white nationalism like national figures in the movement who have supported him, “he has already signaled his affinity with such ideas.”
McNeil has shown opposition toward immigration into the country. In the fall, he and other members of K-State’s chapter of Turning Point USA disbanded the group, claiming that the national organization had “ceded cultural ground” to the left as it focused on economic issues.
He also has taken issue with the increased prevalence of LGBTQ culture, such as drag queen story hours at libraries.
McNeil’s statement particularly targeted the Kansas City Star, which was the first news outlet to report on the advocacy group’s investigation. He called the Star’s report a “calculated political hit job” from a “failing outlet that is so desperate for clicks they would lie and defame a 20-year-old campus conservative rather than report actual news.”
He said that since the report, he’s been “convicted in the court of public opinion.”
McNeil further denied allegations that anyone other than him has directed his campus activism and said that was a “baseless lie that damages (his) reputation and endangers his public safety.” McNeil did not specify what danger he’s faced.
McNeil has not responded to various Mercury requests for comment since the report was released last Tuesday.
Following the report last week, several students and campus groups, including the Young Democrats, condemned America First Students.
“The ties to white nationalism and racism are clear from the group’s own mission statements and goals,” the Young Democrats said in a statement. “While they deny these labels, their flirtation with the rhetoric that has led to the suffering of countless people throughout America’s history should not and cannot be ignored.”
While there is nothing in university regulations that prohibits white nationalist groups, K-State officials said “every member of the university community shares in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, but the university cannot censor or punish student expression based on political viewpoint.”
In a joint letter to The Mercury (on Page A6 of Tuesday’s paper) affirming the university’s close relationship with the city of Manhattan, K-State president Richard Myers and mayor Usha Reddi said some groups seek to sow controversy but did not refer specifically to America First Students.
“With the 2020 national elections in the forefront and campaigning in full swing across the country, there will be organizations throughout the political spectrum who seek to generate controversy as a way to garner publicity and seek division among groups with differing opinions,” the letter said.
“We stand together in asking every member of the University and Manhattan community to share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect.”