The Democratic candidate for next month's North Carolina House special election shared an article Monday accusing his opponent of using "clown" as an anti-Semitic dog whistle based on an obscure alt-right meme.
North Carolina's 9th Congressional District is currently vacant after ballot fraud by supporters of Republican Mark Harris led the state election board not to certify the results of the 2018 election. Harris decided to not run for the seat. State representative Dan Bishop won the GOP primary, while Democrat Dan McCready won the Democratic primary unopposed.
In April, Bishop unveiled an attack ad calling national Democratic figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders "crazy liberal clowns." Bishop released a longer version earlier this week attacking their policies, such as taxpayer-funded healthcare for illegal immigrants and "open borders."
Along those lines, Bishop also tweeted several times about Democratic "clowns" after the ad's release. The left-wing Daily Kos did not care for that rhetoric, with staffer David Nir writing a piece headlined, "North Carolina Republican's response to shootings: Embrace ‘clown' slur pushed by white supremacists."
The clown line, Nir wrote, was "not just a particularly lame joke. It turns out there's a disturbing genesis. Jared Holt, one of the tireless folks at Right Wing Watch, reported in April that white supremacists have begun adopting a version of the infamous far-right ‘Pepe the Frog' meme decked out in clown garb that they call ‘Honkler,' to symbolize ‘their exasperation over an imagined state of collapse in the Western hemisphere that they largely blame on immigrants and minority groups.'"
"Whether or not Bishop understands the significance of his ‘clown' slurs, the propagation of this meme from the cesspools of the internet directly to the highest levels of Republican power shows just how in thrall to the far-right today's GOP is," he argued.
McCready evidently agreed with the article's premise, tweeting "My God, we are better than this."
— Dan McCready (@McCreadyForNC) August 5, 2019
"Clown" is a fairly standard insult in U.S. politics for attacking unserious opponents and typically doesn't carry Nazi connotations. Just in the past week, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough attacked President Donald Trump's DNI pick John Ratcliffe as a "clown," and liberal songstress Barbra Streisand attacked Trump in a "Send in the Clowns" parody.
Correction 8/14/19: Earlier version of this post stated Harris lost to Bishop in the primary. Harris decided to not run in the primary.