White supremacist Robert Sterkeson has been identified as the man who briefly displayed a swastika flag at Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign rally in Arizona on Thursday. Sterkeson has been known as an extremist for more than a decade; he operates an obscure anti-Muslim hate group.
“It is beyond disgusting to see that, in the United States of America, there are people who would show the emblem of Hitler and Nazism,” Sanders reportedly told journalists Friday morning.
Sterkeson was reportedly first identified by Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Council on Islamic Relations-Arizona, and his identity was confirmed by antifascist researchers online, who located records of similar anti-Jewish stunts that Sterkeson had performed in the past, as well as an online profile where Sterkeson took credit for Thursday’s display. The Anti-Defamation League reported that Sterkeson “frequently targets Jews” and Muslim communities for his self-described “stunt” activism, and that Sterkeson has spoken positively of Robert Bowers, the man charged with murdering 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
According to Media Matters, Sterkeson has produced and uploaded droves of hateful content to his YouTube account—called “Bomb Islam”—despite YouTube’s promises to counter hate speech on its platform. Nick Martin of The Informant reported that Sterkeson had uploaded a video encouraging viewers to “join a right-wing death squad and kill a bunch of politicians, journalists and judges.” At the time of publication, Sterkeson’s YouTube channel is still active. Google did not immediately respond to Right Wing Watch’s request for comment.
If elected, Sanders would be the United States’ first Jewish president. Members of Sanders’ family were killed in the Holocaust. Despite this, opponents have repeatedly compared Sanders and his movement to the Nazi Party. On the CPAC main stage last week, Glenn Beck claimed that Sanders and his supporters were seeking to enact “another Holocaust.” MSNBC host Chris Matthews apologized to Sanders last week for comparing Sanders’ primary win in Nevada to the 1940 fall of France to Nazi Germany.
The only before and after that matters. pic.twitter.com/Ndfv2hadg4
— Imraan Siddiqi (@imraansiddiqi) March 6, 2020
(Update 4:50pm): After the publication of this article, Google terminated Sterkeson’s YouTube account for violating terms of service.