Trump Campaign Staffer’s History as Far-Right Blogger, Examined

President Donald Trump visits his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on Feb. 13, 2020. Sonny Joy Nelson is picture wearing red at the desk on the left. (Screenshot / Instagram)

Sonny Joy Nelson worked at the far-right blog Big League Politics before joining President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign last year, where she currently serves as associate director of strategic communications. While working for the site, Nelson ​pushed far-right culture war talking points, claiming that white men are one of the “largest groups” discriminated against in the United States and that restorative racial justice actions create a “never-ending cycle of oppression against the white man.”

The campaign’s choice to hire a staffer from a far-right publication and place her into a position of influence may offer additional insights into its priorities as the 2020 election nears. Trump’s operation has doubled down on incendiary culture war issues​, fanning the flames of racial division in hopes of energizing ​it​s​ supporters, even though ​doing so has reportedly unnerved some of the president’s Republican allies in Congress, who fear such divisive rhetoric will usher them out of power.

Nelson’s prior employer, Big League Politics, is a far-right, pro-Trump news blog founded by a handful of former Breitbart News staffers who thought Breitbart News, ​described ​by former chairman Steve Bannon as the “platform for the alt-right​,” was too mainstream, Mother Jones reports. The site was later purchased by political consultants Noel Fritsch and Reilly O’Neal, who used the site to advance ​​the congressional campaigns of Corey Stewart, a neo-Confederate sympathizer with ties to white nationalists, and Roy Moore, a far-right politician extreme enough to have his own Southern Poverty Law Center profile. The outlet has pushed the campaigns of additional far-right candidates including Paul Nehlen, whom the site continued to publish fawning articles about even after Nehlen’s white supremacist ideology became evident, and a leading member of the Proud Boys​ hate group, Luke Rohlfing, is among the site’s former staff. Big League Politics has also trafficked in conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

Nelson left Big League Politics for the Trump campaign near the beginning of April 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile, and currently works under Marc Lotter, the campaign’s director of strategic communications. In a press release announcing Lotter’s hire last year, the office of strategic communications was described as responsible for coordinating Trump surrogates in media appearances.

Since taking on a role in the Trump campaign, Nelson has been photographed mingling with prominent right-wing media figures and meeting high profile political figures like Attorney General William Barr. Conservative power couple Mercedes Schlapp, a Trump campaign senior adviser, and Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union lobbying group, hosted Nelson at their 2019 Christmas party, where Nelson grabbed a photo with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Trump’s online campaign merchandise shop displays several images of Nelson​ modeling Trump-branded hoodiesjacketst-shirts, and a Christmas sweater. Nelson announced in May 2019 that she had joined Turning Point USA’s ambassador program, but it is unclear if she is still a part of the program. TPUSA did not respond to request for comment.

Sonny Joy Nelson joins pro-Trump media figures and Attorney General William Barr in a photograph at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., uploaded to Instagram on August 22, 2019. (Screenshot / Instagram)

​Nelson’s byline on Big League Politics first appeared on an Aug. 7, 2018​,​ article accompanied by a video of Nelson arguing against gun control proposals. On the same day, Nelson tweeted: “Group most under attack in today’s society: white, Christian males.” Nelson’s second video, published 10 days later, attacked​ the concept of white privilege, the societal advantage white people experience as a result of being seen as the norm in the United States. Nelson asserted to the Big League Politics audience that the opposite is in fact true.

“In our society right now, white males are one of the largest groups being discriminated against,” Nelson said.

Nelson argued that discussions about white privilege “significantly increased racial tension” and that the concept of white privilege “has become an excuse to which minorities can blame their situation on.” She claimed the idea of white privilege was itself racist and argued that affirmative action programs on college campuses should be abolished because they are racist against white students.

“Being that there’s no affirmative action in favor of Caucasians makes it racist,” Nelson said. “Unpopular opinion here: ​Racism toward white people is still racism.”

She later added, “The argument that because minorities were mistreated in the past that they deserve special treatment now just places us in a never-ending cycle of oppression against the white man.”

Nelson covered events like the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference for Big League Politics alongside co-workers who would later emerge as micro-influencers ​in far-right politics. At Big League Politics’ CPAC 2019 booth, Nelson photographed herself with her then-coworkers Tom Pappert and Pete D’Abrosca. Pappert went on to create National File, a website closely affiliated with Alex Jones’ far-right conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, and D’Abrosca launched a congressional campaign built on an extreme anti-immigrant platform, but he failed to complete necessary steps to appear on the ballot. It is unknown whether Nelson maintains contact with either D’Abrosca and Pappert.

Tom Pappert, Sonny Joy Nelson, Pete D’Abrosca pose for a photograph at Big League Politics’ CPAC 2019 booth. (Screenshot / Facebook)

During her time at Big League Politics, Nelson created videos and authored articles that echoed the misogynistic rhetoric of “men’s rights” literature, attacked women’s reproductive rights, and expressed anti-LGBTQ beliefs.

In a video published Sept. 28, 2018, Nelson attacked feminists who supported Christine Blasey Ford, who testified that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. Nelson claimed in video that men are valued less than women and treated as disposable in American society, and that feminists fight to “be above men” rather than equal.

“These third-wave feminists that are backing Dr. Ford don’t want equality. They want to be above men, and how is that fair?” Nelson said. “In our society, women’s lives are already valued more than males, even though many feminists don’t want to see it like that. Men are considered to be disposable. They’re supposed to continue following traditional gender roles. They’re supposed to be the protector and sacrifice for women and children first.”

In a video published Aug. 27, 2018, Nelson argued that abortion providers like Planned Parenthood were motivated by “blood money” instead of genuine concern for women’s reproductive health, asking why the organization doesn’t provide abortions for free. She then cited Planned Parenthood’s sliding price scale​, claiming it contradicted the concept of white privilege.

“So, if Planned Parenthood truly does care about women like they so claim to, why aren’t their abortions free? Why do they have a sliding price scale based off ethnicity and economic income? Why are white women’s abortions more expensive than minority abortions?” Nelson said. “How’s that for your white privilege?”

Big League Politics published a video on Jan. 30, 2019, in which Nelson lauded Trump’s support for state bills that would allow public schools to teach Bible literacy classes as part of its curriculum. Nelson said bringing the Bible into public schools would be the best way to counter programs that teach children about sexual orientation and gender identity,​ seeming to suggest that those programs had some nefarious goal in mind.

“With all this new common core indoctrination that allows young kids to be taught about transgenderism and pushing kids to question their sexuality, bringing the Bible back into the school is the best possible thing that could happen to our school system,” Nelson said.

Most of Nelson’s content at Big League Politics consisted of sensationally headlined articles with anti-abortion​ spin. Nelson covered the annual ​anti-abortion March for Life for the site in January 2019 and reported that she had met with Vice President Mike Pence during her experience. Nelson appeared on a political opinion panel representing Big League Politics during a March 2019 episode of The Hill’s daily news and opinion show “Rising,” where she argued that news of Trump requesting his son-in-law Jared Kusher be given a top-secret security clearance despite concerns from intelligence officials was unremarkable and questioned whether concerns about Trump’s request were part of a “made-up scandal.”

It appears Nelson began working for Big League Politics while wrapping up her college education at Campbell University in North Carolina in the latter half of 2018. Nelson’s byline continued to appear on the site for more than a year; her last article on Big League Politics was published on Mar​ch 24, 2019. Little time appears to exist between Nelson’s employment at Big League Politics and her ​employment with the Trump campaign. It is not known what, if any, relationship the Trump campaign has with Big League Politics.

Right Wing Watch attempted to reach Nelson via an email address listed on one of her social media profiles, ​asking whether she continues to hold the beliefs she espoused while working at Big League Politics, but did not receive a response prior to publication. An inquiry submitted to Big League Politics’ online contact form was not returned. It is also unknown whether the Trump campaign was aware of Nelson’s content on Big League Politics prior to her hire. An emailed press inquiry sent by Right Wing Watch on Thursday afternoon went unanswered before publication.