LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A former Nebraska Republican Party intern who later worked as a paid campaign staffer for Gov. Pete Ricketts apologized Monday after being exposed as the person behind a series of hateful online posts in which he used anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs and advocated for violence against gay rights parades, black activists and journalists.
Bennett Bressman, 22, made the remarks anonymously in an online chat forum for fans of the YouTube show "America First," hosted by Nicholas Fuentes, a right-wing activist who has participated in white nationalist rallies.
Bressman was exposed as the author of the posts by activists from "Anti-Fascist Action Nebraska," a local chapter of the group known as "antifa." Ricketts' campaign and the state GOP both confirmed that he worked for them. Bressman spent seven months as a field staffer for the governor's 2018 re-election campaign, during which he distributed yard signs and helped coordinate campaign volunteers. His work on the campaign ended in December.
"I am shocked and horrified to learn that this former staffer made these statements and I had no idea he harbored these feelings," Ricketts said in a statement. "He never expressed these views to me. I condemn these statements and this hateful worldview, which do not reflect my beliefs or the beliefs of Nebraskans."
Ryan Hamilton, the executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, said Bressman volunteered as an intern for the party during the spring semester of 2018. Hamilton said the party will re-examine its pre-employment screening procedures.
"The views expressed by Mr. Bressman online are abhorrent and have no place in the Nebraska Republican Party," Hamilton said. "Had the party been aware he harbored those beliefs, he never would have been permitted to volunteer. And had the party become aware of them during his time as an intern, he would have been terminated immediately."
Bressman confirmed to the Lincoln Journal Star that he posted thousands of comments on the forum, with statements including "gays are the scum of the earth" and "my whole political ideology revolves around harming journalists." He apologized and said he posted the comments on his own time, without the knowledge of the GOP or the Ricketts campaign.
"I'm not denying it," he told the newspaper. "I understand how they look really bad and are really bad on their face. I regret what I said."
In one post, he wrote, "would you run over a (Black Lives Matter) supporter if they were in the street," then added, "(I) probably would for the (laughs)."
In another, he wrote that he enjoys conservative radio personality Michael Savage "even though he's a Jew." In yet another, he admitted that he once threw eggs at a rally for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and suggests that LGBT parades should get hit by grenades.
Bressman did not return a phone message left by The Associated Press on a cellphone listed as his number.
Some of his comments appear to make reference to Ari Kohen, a well-known University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science professor who describes himself as "vividly Jewish." Kohen said Monday that he taught Bressman in a class two years ago. He described him as quiet but said he never sensed anything amiss.
"I don't want to be an alarmist, but it's a frightening thing to be 5-10 feet away from someone who seems to viscerally hate you," Kohen said.
In a statement, University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials said their police department was investigating the "racist, bigoted and hateful comments" attributed to a student.
"The safety of our university community is paramount," the statement said. "Any concerns about safety are taken seriously, and we will take all appropriate action based on the identification of a potential threat."
This version of the story corrects the spelling of Bressman in paragraph two.
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