A Jan. 6 antisemite is sent to prison. What do the presidential candidates say?

(RNS) — Last Friday (April 19), a sometime leader of the Proud Boys’ Maryland-D.C. chapter was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for his participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, during which he assaulted a number of Capitol police officers with a wooden pole. 

Scott Miller received the sentence — the longest handed down by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in the cases resulting from Jan. 6 — despite pleading guilty, apologizing for his behavior and declaring that he is “reforming” himself. Chutkan brought the hammer down because, she said, the amount of racist and antisemitic material on his cellphone led her to doubt that Miller is genuinely remorseful.

I doubt that too, at least based on the antisemitism.

According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, two months before the assault Miller declared his intention to fight to protect “White America” against “a cabal of media elites, corrupt officials, and big tech oligarchs, ” writing, “Only the National Justice Party has the will to break this corrupt cabal once and for all. We are mobilizing the toughest, most resilient and most politically savvy elements of White America in order to wage a real struggle for our country and for our birthright.”

The National Justice Party is a virulently antisemitic organization established by a number of white supremacists in the wake of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, whose slogan was, “Jews will not replace us.”

Scott Miller in a 2020 Halloween costume with badges reading “Minneapolis Police” and “CHAUVIN,” references to the police officer who has been convicted of the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. (Photo via U.S. government sentencing memorandum)

On Jan. 6, Miller searched the internet for locations of “jewish owned stores” in Washington. Three months later — two months after he claims to have resigned from the Proud Boys — he wrote:

If one takes a deep enough look into who has been driving the communist and capitalist empires of the 20th century they can see the dark hands of Judaism being rubbed together behind closed doors while their puppets and pawns fight each other in public to fight for their jewish masters.

He went on to say that the answer to America’s problems is “National Socialism,” which “opposes the evil forces of Judaism so that the best people of the world can flourish and be perfected.” When law enforcement searched Miller’s Maryland home in December 2022, they found items with Nazi insignia along with Proud Boys patches, insignia clothing and bumper stickers. 

His own lawyer’s sentencing memorandum does not claim that Miller has abandoned his antisemitic views. 

Of course, holding such views is not illegal in America, whatever its relevance for sentencing purposes. But at a time when public expressions of antisemitism on both ends of the political spectrum are afflicting American life, it’s important to compare and contrast how politicians respond.

Photo evidence of Scott Miller, circled, hitting Capitol police officers with a pole on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo via U.S. government sentencing memorandum)

Photo evidence of Scott Miller, circled, hitting Capitol police officers with a pole on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo via U.S. government sentencing memorandum)

Leveling charges of antisemitism against the other side is easy enough. The test is whether you’re prepared to take aim at your own. In last Sunday’s Passover message, President Joe Biden wrote: 

The ancient story of persecution against Jews in the Haggadah also reminds us that we must speak out against the alarming surge of Antisemitism — in our schools, communities, and online. Silence is complicity. Even in recent days, we’ve seen harassment and calls for violence against Jews. This blatant Antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous — and it has absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country. 

On Monday, in response to a reporter’s question about the antisemitism evident in the pro-Palestinian protests on campuses around the country, Biden said, “I condemn the antisemitic protests,” adding, “I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump continued to downplay the Charlottesville rally he infamously characterized as “very fine people on both sides.” That rally, which resulted in one death and 40 injuries, was “like a ‘peanut’ compared to the riots and anti-Israel protests that are happening all over our Country, RIGHT NOW,” he said in a post on Truth Social.

And then there was this mendacious nonsense about the president, who traveled to Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas and who continues to supply the Jewish state with an unconditioned stream of weaponry: “The fact is that Crooked Joe Biden HATES Israel and Hates the Jewish people. The problem is that he HATES the Palestinians even more, and he just doesn’t know what to do!?!?”

OK, so Trump is having a bad week, what with being required to sit through that hush money trial in a cold New York City courtroom. But I do wonder how Scott Miller fits into his characterization of the jailed Jan. 6 rioters as “hostages” and “unbelievable patriots”  whom he will immediately pardon if he’s reelected.

The characterization will hardly have pleased Judge Chutkan, who is overseeing Trump’s election interference case in Washington. “It can happen again,” she said after sentencing Miller. “Extremism is alive and well in this country. Threats of violence continue unabated.”

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