Speed Reads

Alt-wrong

CNN journalist tries to reason with white nationalist hosting Texas A&M alt-right forum

Preston Wiginton is finally getting his moment in the klieg light. The 51-year-old former pallet manufacturer crowned "Strongest Skinhead" in 2005 at the neo-Nazi gathering Hammerfest, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is hosting "alt-right" leader Richard Spencer at Texas A&M University on Tuesday, and while his past forums in rented university rooms featuring controversial speakers have been widely ignored and drawn tiny crowds, this event is getting national coverage.

Texas A&M, which Wiginton attended for a year in his 40s, says it can't stop the Spencer event because it is a public university and can't impinge on First Amendment rights, but it has voiced opposition to the white supremacist views espoused by both Wigington and Spencer and is holding a counter-event at the football stadium. A&M isn't the only actor put in a bind — so is the media. The journalism that "aims to cover or even expose Spencer," says Michael Brendan Dougherty at The Week, "ultimately plays into his hands," and the same is probably true about Wigington. "Hopefully, this event will give me enough exposure that people will say, 'This guy knows what he is talking about,'" Wiginton said last week.

CNN's Gary Tuchman interviewed Wigington for Monday's Anderson Cooper 360 and tried to push back on the white nationalist's more outrageous claims — such as the opinion, suggested also by President-elect Donald Trump on the night before the election, that Somalis are too different to fit into white American culture. "By saying that all Somalis shouldn't come here, isn't that being a bigot?" he asked. "Um," Wigington said, pausing for a long second. "Sometimes maybe being a bigot is wise."

If you want, you can read more about Wigington — including his time in Russia living in a David Duke-leased apartment and forging ties with Russian skinheads and far-right leaders — in this report from WFAA and The Texas Tribune. Wigington would probably appreciate it.