An ABC FOX Montana investigation into Richard Spencer, the part-time Whitefish resident who is inspiring white supremacists across the country.
Our reporting has uncovered an unexpected by-product of Spencer’s notoriety – – a family and a community torn apart.
Spencer’s latest news-storm came last week when he spoke at Texas A & M, provoking heated confrontation and once-again, mentions of Montana – – and Whitefish specifically – – as his part-time home.
So, we went back to Whitefish – – and here’s what we uncovered.
Richard Spencer was raised in Texas, but has been spending time in Whitefish for years with his family. His mother, Sherry Spencer, still lives in a beautiful home at Whitefish Mountain Resort. She also runs a business downtown, but perhaps not for long.
“Hail trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” says Richard Spencer.
In a speech last month at the National Policy Institute’s annual convention, the crowd’s Nazi-like response rocketed Richard Spencer into the media stratosphere. But back here on Earth, and specifically in Whitefish, the war over Spencer’s white nationalist views has locals fighting battles in the newspaper and on the street – – 22 Lupfer Avenue specifically.
It’s a new building in Whitefish’s downtown historic district. First owned by Richard Spencer, and now owned by his mother, Sherry. There are vacation rentals on the top floor, businesses lease at street-level.
But Sherry says her son’s political views – – and his detractors – – are forcing her to sell the property. In an email to us, Sherry says, “As painful as this is, I am exploring a potential sale of the building.”
One of those detractors is Tanya Gersh, a prominent member of the community, who told me in an email: “She (Sherry) is profiting off of the people of the local community, all the while having facilitated Richard’s work spreading hate by letting him live and use her home address for his organization.”
Virginia’s state corporation commission still lists Sherry’s home as the principle office location for Richard’s white nationalist organization, The National Policy Institute.
And a dive into Sherry’s Facebook page supports the fact that Richard has spent a substantial amount of time with his mother in Whitefish, snow skiing, water skiing, hiking, holidays.
Sherry’s Facebook page also has photos of her son when he spoke at the Mencken Club’s annual gathering in 2010, A group the Southern Poverty Law Center refers to as
“A band of white nationalists and pseudo academic racists.” Pictures also show Sherry and her husband attending.
In Sherry’s email to me, she says, “As parents, we deeply love our son, as we always will. We unequivocally do not agree with the extreme positions espoused by Richard.”
She goes on to say, “We are stunned by the actions of Love Lives Here, an organization claiming to advocate tolerance and equal treatment of all citizens, yet coursing financial harm to many innocent parties.”
Ina Albert, Love Lives Here co-founder, says, “I don’t know what she’s talking about. We don’t cause financial harm to anybody.”
Human rights group Love Lives Here has been vocally opposed to Richard Spencer’s views, but its co-founder says she has no problem with Richard spending time, or his mother doing business in Whitefish.
“I don’t know what he does when he comes here,” says Albert. “But that is not our problem with Richard Spencer. It is the national policy institute and what that stands for and our town being smeared by his philosophy.”
Tanya says she does have a problem with it, though. She says, Sherry “Could address this by selling the building, making a donation to human rights efforts, and making a statement in opposition to white supremacist ideas spread by Richard.”
One thing on which both Tanya and Sherry agree: The tenants at 22 Lupfer are stuck in the middle. The owner of Whitefish Aesthetics tells me her association with the building is destroying her business and she’s moving out if Sherry doesn’t sell it.
Sherry wrote to Tanya that, “Her son’s actions have been a source of anguish within her family.”
It’s also been a source of contention in Whitefish. A letter to the editor of the Daily Interlake: “The mob rule reaction to Richard Spencer’s mere existence in Whitefish reminds me of the old Frankenstein movies where the townspeople gathered with pitchforks and torches.”
And: “This ‘group’ which is supposed to love all, only loves those who agree with them.”
A town divided, a mother torn, and a man whose mission is continuing to stir controversy on a national, and very local level.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of racist groups and organizations, stated this about Spencer:
“As head of the National Policy Institute (NPI), Richard Spencer is one of the country’s most successful young white nationalist leaders —a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis.”
For more information about Spencer click here: Southern Poverty Law Center
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