Right-wing social media personality and troll Kaitlin Bennett was the focus of a protest on Feb. 17, 2020, when students gathered and demanded she leave the Ohio University, Athens campus, where she and her entourage said they were attempting to film a video.
Bennett, who has served as a contributor to the Alex Jones conspiracy-peddling network InfoWars, is also the face of the far-right Liberty Hangout, which brands itself as "the official home of Kaitlin Bennett" and as a "libertarian media outlet" intent on promoting "Austrian economics and property rights," although a recent tweet from the group promoted monarchy over democracy.
Bennett, who has previously stirred controversy by posting images of herself on social media posing with large guns, often on college campuses such as her alma mater Kent State in Ohio, is the founder of Kent State's Liberty Hangout chapter, according to a university spokesperson.
Bennett is more recently known for conducting interviews for both Liberty Hangout and InfoWars in places where she is likely to encounter liberal-minded people in the hopes of instigating responses that entertain her right-wing audience. The results could be described as mixed at best, for her purposes, however. In January 2020, she was criticized for commentary that was viewed as hateful toward the transgender community.
Following a spate of news stories and social media posts about the Feb. 17 incident at Ohio University, several Snopes readers inquired about Bennett and one asked specifically, "Did Kaitlin Bennett’s group Liberty Hangout really tweet then delete these Nazi tweets?"
Liberty Hangout's past social media statements have included homophobic commentary, asserting only the economically-privileged should be allowed to vote, and comparing themselves to Jesus.
A search of internet archiving tools confirmed that on Jan. 30, 2016, the Liberty Hangout Twitter account posted a poll asking other Twitter users to answer the question, "Do you believe the Holocaust happened as we've been told?" In response to that post, one user asked, "What do you think" and Liberty Hangout replied, "It doesn't seem possible that 6 million were killed."
We contacted Liberty Hangout to ask who wrote and deleted the posts about the Holocaust, but received no response. We also reached out to Bennett via Facebook and received no response. Antifascists in Colorado Springs were the first to report on the tweets on the anarchist platform It's Going Down.
Holocaust denial is a key element in white supremacist ideology. It is defined by the Anti-Defamation League as:
A type of anti-Semitic propaganda that emerged after World War II and which uses pseudo-history to deny the reality of the systematic mass murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and their allies during World War II. Holocaust deniers generally claim that the Holocaust never happened, or that some much smaller number of Jews did die, but primarily to diseases like typhus. They also claim that legitimate accounts of the Holocaust are merely propaganda or lies generated by Jews for their own benefit.
Although no exact figure has been ascertained, there is no historical doubt that millions of Jews were targeted for genocide during the Holocaust. An estimated 6 million European Jews were mass murdered. Other groups were also targeted and killed over what the Nazis perceived as "racial and biological inferiority," including Roma and Slavic people, members of the LGBT community, as well as the Nazis' political opponents.
Liberty Hangout was co-founded in 2015 by Bennett's now-fiance Justin Moldow. It has long featured extreme commentary, including a number of pro-Confederacy posts. In 2018, Liberty Hangout published an article asserting that "It’s Time to Admit that Martin Luther King, Jr. Really Sucked." In February 2016, the group tweeted a meme depicting then-presidential candidate Donald Trump dressed in a Nazi uniform attached to the words "Make Reich Great Again."
In 2015, Moldow interviewed Chris Cantwell, who gained notoriety as the "Crying Nazi" for his role in the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Cantwell as of this writing is in custody awaiting trial on charges that he made violent threats.
In September 2018, Bennett organized a rally at Kent State featuring Joey Gibson, the founder of the far-right, anti-Muslim group Patriot Prayer, best known for its provocation of violent skirmishes at rallies in the Pacific Northwest.
Provoking students on college campuses is not a new tactic. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the tactic has in recent years been favored by the far-right as a means of recruitment. "Alt-right personalities know their cause is helped by news footage of large jeering crowds, heated confrontations and outright violence at their events. It allows them to play the victim and gives them a larger platform for their racist message. Denying an alt-right speaker of such a spectacle is the worst insult they can endure."