Richard Spencer does not look like a neo-Nazi. He wears tweed three-piece suits and bowties, and cites Nietzsche as easily as he does Jared Taylor, the founder of “race realist” news site American Renaissance. Spencer advocates for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” that would precede the creation of a white ethno-state in the United States, a country that he says would be a new Roman Empire.
The 38-year-old was born born in Boston, and grew up in a wealthy section of Dallas. His father is an ophthalmologist and his mother, the heiress to cotton farms in Louisiana, is an artist.
Spencer attended an all-boys private school in Dallas, and earned an undergraduate degree with distinction in English literature and music from the University of Virginia before he received a master’s degree in humanities from the University of Chicago. He then moved on to Duke, where he pursued a doctorate in modern European intellectual history for two years before he, in his own words, “moved on to a life of thought-crime.” (While at Duke, Spencer was close with President Trump’s adviser Stephen Miller, a fellow member of the Duke Conservative Union.)
Spencer went to work for the American Conservative, a right-wing magazine that ended up canning Spencer for his extreme views (mainstream conservatives remain wary of Spencer; he was ejected from CPAC in 2017). He edited the conservative Taki’s Magazine in from 2008 to late 2009 before he left to start his own venture.
That venture was AlternativeRight.com. Spencer claims to have created the term alt-right with the founding of the site. Following that, Spencer became the Executive Director of Washington Summit Publishers, and founded Radix Journal, another conservative publication, as a biannual publication of Washington Summit Publishers.
But his main project, the one for which he’s come to be known, is the blandly titled National Policy Institute, a think tank devoted to the dissemination of white nationalist thought. Founded in 2012, the NPI publishes papers on affirmative action, race-mixing, and conservatism. Though it was once based in Montana, it now operates out of Alexandria, where it has run into legal trouble over its claimed non-profit status.
The NPI’s motto is, “For our people, our culture, our future.”
Spencer himself has rejected the term neo-Nazi and white supremacist, preferring white nationalist, envisioning a white ethno-state in America. He has called his movement “identity politics for white people,” and although he is an atheist, he describes himself as a cultural Christian.
Spencer is an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, which propelled him to the forefront of national politics during the 2016 presidential election. Of his victory, Spencer, at an “alt-right” conference, gave a Nazi salute and said, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” (He later claimed that the salute was not serious, but rather done out of “irony and exuberance.”) Spencer was notably punched in the face outside of Trump’s inauguration.
He splits his time between Whitefish, Montana (the site of several anti-Semitic controversies) and Arlington, Virginia.