DHS contradicts Candace Owens on same day she testifies before Congress about white nationalism

Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON-- On the same day that the Department of Homeland Security added violent white supremacist extremism to its list of terror threats for the first time since the agency's creation after the 9/11 attacksa controversial African American conservative commentator told Congress that “white nationalism is not a problem that is harming” communities of color in America.

Candace Owens, who has previously dismissed white nationalism and has said Hitler was “OK” until he “had dreams outside of Germany”, downplayed the threat of white supremacy at Friday's hearing during her testimony before the House Oversight Joint Subcommittee

Owens told lawmakers that "based on the hierarchy of what’s impacting minority Americans, if I had to make a list of 100 things, white nationalism would not make the list.”

“White supremacy and white nationalism is not a problem that is harming Black America,” she continued. 

Owens continued to blame violence on hostility towards masculinity, black-on-black crime, abortion rates, and illegal immigration.

But, her comments came around the same time the DHS added white supremacist violence to its list of priority threats in a revised counter-terrorism strategy.

Kevan McAleenan, the acting Homeland Security secretary, said Friday during remarks at the Brookings Institution in Washington that the “continuing menace of racially-based violent extremism, particularly white supremacist extremism, is an abhorrent affront to our nation, the struggle and unity of its diverse population, and the core values of both our society and our department." 

He continued to explain that after the alleged El Paso shooter “sought to kill Hispanics, and his online manifesto was rife with references to multiple hate-based ideologies,” McAleenan said he was even more confident that DHS needed a new counter-terrorism strategy.

“In our modern age, the continuation of racially-based violent extremism, particularly violent white supremacy, is an abhorrent affront to the nation,” he also said.

Owens recently left the post of communications director for Turning Point USA, a conservative organization that aims to organize college students. She pushed for more African Americans to vote Republican, arguing Democratic policies have hindered, rather than helped, the black community. 

She was invited to testify at the hearing about confronting white supremacy by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who ceded his time to her after Democrats mostly skipped over her during the discussion. Jordan is a prominent member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. 

Owens went onto say that white nationalism is “just election rhetoric,” echoing her earlier testimony on Capitol Hill in April and told lawmakers they should instead focus on “God and religion and shrinking government.”

“It's 'Days of Our Lives' in here, and it's embarrassing,” she said concluding her testimony.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress in July that the bureau had recorded approaching 100 arrests of domestic terrorism suspects in the previous nine months and most of those investigations of that kind involve some form of white supremacy.  

There were 1,020 known hate groups in the country in 2018, the fourth straight year of growth, the New York Times reported earlier this year, citing the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremism in the U.S. Hate crimes, meanwhile, rose 30 percent in the three-year period ending in 2017, the Times also reported, citing FBI figures.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Candace Owens contradicted by DHS on threat of white nationalism