If you had never heard of Candace Owens until recently, you aren’t alone. Less than a decade ago, she was an unknown college dropout working as a marketing professional in New York, writing pieces for her company’s website about the “bat-s—t crazy antics of the Republican Tea Party.” Then, suddenly, she claimed to have experienced a political conversion. She told the libertarian political commentator Dave Rubin in 2017, “I became a conservative overnight. . . . I realized that liberals were actually the racists. Liberals were actually the trolls.”

At the time, Owens, who is African American, had been gaining followers as a YouTuber under the name of RedPillBlack, posting provocative videos with titles such as “I Don’t Care About Charlottesville, the KKK, or White Supremacy.” Such pseudo-transgressive hot takes garnered praise from far-right figures like Alex Jones, of InfoWars. She parlayed that popularity into a stint with Turning Point USA, the grassroots group, during which she toured college campuses with TPUSA chief Charlie Kirk, admonishing students to stop acting like victims and embrace Donald Trump. The Daily Wire hired her in 2020 to host her own show, Candace, on its platform.

Owens was precisely the kind of person the conservative movement—and conservative new media in particular—thought it needed to cultivate. Young, hip, black, and adept at working across many new media platforms, Owens appeared to be the perfect conservative controversialist.

Except, as Owens’s audience has grown, so has her comfort level with airing not only her reactionary takes on Democrats, obese celebrities, and George Floyd, but also her raging, out-and-out anti-Semitism.

In a recent episode of her show, for example, she tried to downplay Kanye West’s appallingly anti-Semitic remarks from a few years ago (West announced he was “going death con 3 on Jewish people”). Owens had defended West at the time, tweeting, “If you are an honest person, you did not find this tweet antisemitic”. And she continues to claim his remarks were justifiable because West believed that a cabal of Jews in Hollywood was out to get him. Owens’s remarks are worth quoting at length:

In all communities there are gangs. In the black community we’ve got the Bloods, we’ve got the Crips. Well, imagine if the Bloods and the Crips were doing horrific things, murdering people, controlling people with blackmail, and then every time a person spoke out about it, the Bloods and the Crips would call those people racist, would get the media to say those people were racist. . . . What if that is what is happening right now in Hollywood if there is just a very small ring of specific people who are using the fact that they are Jewish to shield themselves from any criticism. It’s food for thought, right? . . . There are enough people that are speaking out about a ring in Hollywood, also a ring potentially in D.C., that we should start to ask those questions. . . . All Americans should want answers because this appears to be something that is quite sinister.

What is sinister is Owens’s “just asking questions” approach as a means of encouraging anti-Semitism, a posture she’s doubled down on since the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7. She has emerged as a loud and ill-informed critic of the State of Israel, one whose views would be far more at home on the progressive left than among most Republicans and conservatives, who support Israel.

On X, Owens wrote of Israel, “No government anywhere has a right to commit a genocide, ever. There is no justification for a genocide.” She also called the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem a “ghetto” and remarked, “If you think it’s antisemitism to notice that innocent Christians were killed in an IDF bombing, then you need to log off.”

Owens is the one who needs to spend more time offline. A typical tweet, (from October 24, 2023) about the state of Florida removing Students for Justice in Palestine groups from two Florida college campuses after they violated the state’s anti-Semitism laws, featured Owens proclaiming: “I’ll ask the obvious question here. Do people believe that in the future moves like this will increase or decrease feelings of anti-semitism? Do you think these students are going to shut down and think ‘well—guess we have to support Israel now’? This is a serious question.”

This is not a serious question, but it is representative of her approach. First, she prefaces any statement about the Jews or anti-Semitism by noting that she’s just stating the “obvious question.” Then, while pretending to show concern for anti-Semitism, she dishonestly reframes the question and implies that it is Jews who are responsible for anti-Semitism.

Her disingenuousness was on frank display during a feud she had with Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, an outspoken supporter of Israel and an observant Jew. When he correctly described Owens’s behavior as “disgraceful,” she took the feud public on social media, posting Bible verses, including Matthew 5:9, which states, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Shapiro responded, “Candace, if you feel that taking money from The Daily Wire somehow comes between you and God, by all means quit.”

Owens misrepresented Shapiro’s response while simultaneously casting herself as a Christian martyr: “You are utterly out of line for suggesting that I cannot quote biblical scripture. The Bible is not about you. Christ is king.” For this, she received praise from Tucker Carlson, who compared her to Galileo.

She is in fact more akin to a flat-earther. Owens frequently makes claims that have no basis in evidence in a bid to gain attention and cultivate followers. Just before Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky visited the United States in December 2022, for example, Owens falsely claimed that his wife was spending American money on French fashion, posting on X, “We want nothing to do with you. Stop stealing from our people while your wife drops tens of thousands of dollars shopping in Paris. Despicable.” In an interview with NBC News, Owens criticized people who “mindlessly vote,” yet she had to admit that she herself had not bothered to vote in the previous two presidential elections.

When she is criticized for saying something irresponsible, or factually incorrect, or anti-Semitic, Owens immediately plays the victim and claims persecution as a Christian or an African American. When Dennis Prager (for whom Owens once briefly worked) gently chastised her for defending West’s anti-Semitic statements, Owens used her podcast as a venue to attack Prager, who is Jewish. As she told the New Yorker, she called and yelled at him, saying, “I’m not playing this game with the Jewish community again.” Game?

Owens has not been libeled or smeared; she’s been properly criticized for spreading hateful views. And she’s hardly a victim. She has 4 million followers on Instagram, 4.8 million on X, and many, many viewers for her Daily Wire show.

The Trump era has created a conundrum on the right. While support for Israel and a general philo-Semitism remain enduring features of the right in the U.S., some of the loudest voices in right-leaning new media now oppose Israel and are leaning into outright anti-Semitism. They take the understandable belief that mainstream culture and media are hostile to Christianity and traditional conservative values and twist it into a new iteration of classic Christian anti-Semitism—all while claiming to be among the victimized.

This persecution complex can be applied to a range of issues, and it flatters Owens’s own sense of importance in the culture. As Owens recently posted on X, “Something is going on with Justin Bieber and it has everything to do with him being a Christian in demonic Hollywood. If you aren’t paying attention yet—the media has recently launched a full scale attack on Christianity. And therefore me.” This brings attention not to the travails of Justin Bieber or to Christians but to Owens’s favorite subject: herself.

It’s a clever posture. Criticize her or fire her, and you’re persecuting all Christians; by expressing outrage at her anti-Semitism, you’re ensuring the further abuse of Christians like her who are “just asking questions.” Her self-described brand is that she is “the most controversial black woman in America.” The reality? Her toxic mix of combative and ignorant extremism should have no place in the conservative movement.

Photo: Gage Skidmore

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