Trump administration eliminates funding for group countering white nationalism

The group will no longer get any funding through the Countering Violent Extremism program.

In this Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 photo, former skinhead Bryon Widner folds his arms while resting at his home. Politico reported that the DHS has halted funding for Life After Hate, an anti-white extremism program that helps deradicalize far-right extremists, on Friday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
In this Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 photo, former skinhead Bryon Widner folds his arms while resting at his home. Politico reported that the DHS has halted funding for Life After Hate, an anti-white extremism program that helps deradicalize far-right extremists, on Friday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The Trump administration has dropped federal support of an organization dedicated to countering white nationalist and neo-Nazi extremism, a Politico report revealed on Friday.

The organization, Life After Hate, was founded in 2009 and is run by a small staff of men and women who were once part of racist activist and extremist movements, and who now work to de-radicalize others involved in violent extremist groups.

In its final days, the Obama administration awarded the group a $400,000 grant as part of its Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program. Life After Hate was the only group dedicated to fighting white nationalist extremism to receive a grant under the program.

It’s also in increasing demand: Picciolini told Politico that since President Trump’s election, Life After Hate has seen a 20-fold increase in requests for help, coming “from people looking to disengage or bystanders/family members looking for help from someone they know.”

But Life After Hate Founder Christian Picciolini told ThinkProgress in February the group never received its check from the federal government. And now, the organization has been dropped altogether from the list of grants associated with the CVE program, which the Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday.

DHS did not clarify to Politico why Life After Hate was dropped, and Life After Hate did not respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment on the news by publishing time.

Picciolini previously told ThinkProgress, however, that the group feared its grant would be rescinded after Reuters reported that Trump planned to rebrand the CVE program to focus solely on terrorism carried out by groups that claim to be Islamic, and wouldn’t target far-right and white supremacist groups.

“It sends a message that white extremism does not exist, or is not a priority in our country, when in fact it is a statistically larger and more present terror threat than any by foreign or other domestic actors,” Picciolini said at the time.

Since 9/11, far more Americans have been killed in attacks by right-wing organizations than by groups claiming to be Islamic, according to the SPLC.

“We can simply look at recent history, from Dylann Roof to Wade Michael Page to countless others who killed innocent victims in the name of white supremacist ideologies,” Picciolini added. “We have hundreds of thousands of homegrown sovereign citizens and militia members with ties to white nationalism training in paramilitary camps across the U.S. and standing armed in front of mosques to intimidate marginalized Americans. The terror threat is already within our borders, yet we refuse to even call it terrorism when it happens.”

Picciolini told ThinkProgress that the Trump administration’s decision to shift away from efforts to combat far-right hate could actually make future terrorist attacks more likely. And, the shift comes at the very moment that reports indicate far-right hate is on the rise.

The overall number of hate groups in America rose for the second straight year in 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual report. The most striking rise was in anti-Muslim hate: the SPLC tracked 34 anti-Muslim hate groups in 2015, which rose to 101 in 2016.

In the first three months after Trump’s election, ThinkProgress tracked and verified 261 incidents of hate — 41.7 percent of which were connected to Trump’s election victory. The SPLC, which used a different measure, pegged the rise in hate incidents significantly higher.

Alan Pyke contributed reporting.