Photo: Getty

On Sunday, the website Anti-Fascist Nebraska published evidence that Bennett Bressman, 22, a former statewide field director for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, has been particularly active in white nationalist chat rooms, musing about the ease of entry into the GOP and encouraging other members to “take this whole apparatus over.”

In some of the thousands of messages posted to two chat servers associated with the white nationalist organization Identity Evropa, Bressman allegedly wrote that “gays are the scum of the earth,” proposed Trump’s wall be made out of “Mexican skulls,” and parroted bigoted ideas about black Americans. The messages attributed to him also include a number of anti-Semitic memes popular with white nationalists.

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On Sunday night, Democratic Senator Megan Hunt tweeted a statement on the leaks:

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The messages were included in a massive leak of chat platform Discord’s servers and published by the independent media collective Unicorn Riot. They additionally include messages in which Bressman apparently identifies himself, invoking his job as a state organizer for “his governor” several times and (unwisely) circling himself in a photograph at a campaign event.

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Ricketts, the son of conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts and the governor of Nebraska since 2015, has largely escaped the national controversies that have hounded some of his equally political siblings. A former Ameritrade executive and a devout Catholic, Ricketts won re-election in November. His brother, Todd Ricketts, was named the head of fundraising for President Trump’s 2020 campaign this year.

As members of the Ricketts family have risen to national prominence—and been the subjects of scandal over plans to fund racist anti-Obama ads or, more recently, Joe Ricketts’ bigoted leaked emails—Pete Ricketts has focused tightly on his state-level rule. He has also focused his own dollars on maintaining his grip on power, dumping hundreds of thousands into his own pro-death penalty referendum while he sat in office. 

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The chats show that, on at least one occasion, Bressman appears to have considered using his organizing job to slip white nationalist agendas into state-level politics, describing a “brunch with my governor”:

..He’s really good on economics and running state govt like a business but he doesn’t address cuture too much outside of abortion and guns. idk how much i want to suggest right now since he’s up for reelection in november.

but i plants seeds

Since Sunday, Bressman has deleted his social media accounts, including his LinkedIn account. Before it was scrubbed, the latter said Bressman led a team of twenty-four interns, working to distribute literature, answer questions, and run Ricketts’ phone banking. In an emailed statement, Governor Ricketts’ office said Bressman had only worked for the governor’s campaign for a short time, receiving pay as a field organizer through December 2018.

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“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 the statement. He continued: “I unequivocally denounce his hate-filled views towards Jewish people, LGBT people, African Americans, journalists, women, and others. I am particularly concerned about his anti-Semitic statements. Anti-Semitism has no place in society no matter where it hides. The State of Nebraska stands with Israel and has been a home to thousands of Jewish families for generations.”

In the chat logs, Bressman talked about mowing down Black Lives Matter protestors with his car, and defacing immigration lawyers’ offices with white nationalist symbolism.

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Bressman additionally appears to have drawn a direct ideological line between his white nationalist sentiments and his climb through state-level politics, writing almost a year ago:

8 months ago i was unpaid volunteer in state GOP as a student. now i’m state wide field director for governor on a fat salary. it’s easy boys get involved in politics. let’s take this whole apparatus over.