A well-known white nationalist is still serving in the Air Force, Pentagon officials have confirmed, two months after HuffPost first reported on his enlistment. And on Thursday, the chair of a House Armed Services subcommittee said she will contact Air Force leadership to see why there hasn’t been any action.
The inquiry from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who chairs the military personnel subcommittee, concerns Airman 1st Class Shawn McCaffrey, a well-known white nationalist. McCaffrey graduated from boot camp in March, as HuffPost reported earlier this year, even as the military received a historic stand-down order so it could address the problem of extremism in its ranks.
“I will be contacting Air Force leadership to find out why this individual ― who has his own author page on a website for far right extremists, describes himself as an ‘activist,’ and co-hosted a weekly podcast in which he attacked Jews, women, LGBTQ+ people, the U.S. armed forces, and many others using unacceptable slurs ― remains on active duty and under review given the very public and abundant evidence of his extremist ties,” Speier said in an emailed statement.
Last week, the Air Force confirmed to HuffPost that McCaffrey has not been kicked out of the military.
“He is currently on active duty in technical training,” Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said in an email. “His case remains under review and no determination has been made at this time.”
Stefanek wouldn’t give a timeline for when the Air Force review will determine whether McCaffrey has violated military regulations regarding extremism.
Speier thinks it’s already been too long.
“When you swear allegiance to an organization or ideology that poses a clear threat to our democracy and government,” she said, “you should not be able to wear the uniform of the United States of America and have access to sensitive government information.”
The issue of extremists joining the military ― where they can potentially recruit new members to their cause, and gain combat training they can later use on civilian targets ― has received heightened attention of late. The problem came into focus on Jan. 6, when supporters of former President Donald Trump, many of them with military backgrounds, stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In February, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a 60-day stand-down order requiring commanders to have “needed discussions” about extremism with troops. “We will not tolerate actions that go against the fundamental principles of the oath we share, including actions associated with extremist or dissident ideologies,” he wrote in a memo announcing the order.
Two months later, Austin issued another memo outlining the Pentagon’s plans to tackle extremism among service members, including updating the Defense Department’s official definition of extremism and improving how military recruits are screened.
Speier has a proposal of her own. In February, she sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to issue an executive order requiring the military to screen the social media activity of enlistees.
“If we were screening for violent extremism on social media for all incoming military recruits and those seeking government security clearances, as I called for earlier this year, how many cases like this would we have avoided?” she told HuffPost in her statement about McCaffrey.
McCaffrey had many social media accounts he used to spew racial invective — “Black lives do not matter,” he once tweeted — but they were under pseudonyms, and may have been hard for recruiters to find. However, HuffPost presented the Air Force with a detailed list of questions regarding McCaffrey’s social media posts, along with his offline white-nationalist activism, in April.
McCaffrey enlisted on Jan. 26, even though evidence of his life as a racist and anti-Semite was only a Google search away, and even though he made headlines when he got kicked off volunteering duties for Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign in 2019 due to his far-right beliefs.
The FBI was also aware of McCaffrey’s affiliations with white nationalist groups prior to his joining the military, HuffPost learned.
The military has codes prohibiting extremism, but they are vague and often unevenly enforced. Of the 11 U.S. service members HuffPost exposed as belonging to a white nationalist group in 2019, only six were eventually kicked out.
HuffPost recently reported that Airman Dannion Phillips, who was active in a white nationalist group, was allowed to remain in the Air Force. There’s a very real possibility McCaffrey will be allowed to do so as well.
McCaffrey was a high-profile member of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa; attended a highly publicized white nationalist conference in Washington, D.C., in 2016; joined neo-Nazis to troll a livestreamed anti-Trump art installation in Queens, New York, in 2017; and more recently became a close ally of white nationalist Nick Fuentes, the “America First” leader who reportedly helped foment the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
Until last year, McCaffrey co-hosted a livestreamed podcast, “The Weekly Sweat,” where he had chummy conversations with some of the most infamous fascists in America ― including Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, who believes Jews should be gassed.
In one episode, McCaffrey lashed out at Jews and queer people. “You fucking faggots,” he said. “They can’t stop sodomizing each other. You’re never OK. And if you think we’re going to stop after we go after the Jews... no. Gays are not OK ever, under any circumstance, and you’re not welcome here. It’s beyond a mental illness. It’s a very deep, sick perversion.”
McCaffrey also often expressed disdain for the U.S. military, which he would later join.
“It seems like every Marine is gay,” he said in one “Weekly Sweat” episode, “and I really hope we get into a war soon so you fucking faggots have to go defend sand and die and have all your friends die.”
In another episode, McCaffrey argued that women shouldn’t be allowed to join the military. “They shouldn’t leave the house,” he said.
McCaffrey, who is from Novi, Michigan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.