The father of a Unite the Right rally participant says he and his family “loudly repudiate” his son’s “vile, hateful and racist rhetoric and actions,” as he wrote in an open letter published by the North Dakota daily newspaper the Forum.
The letter was posted just two days after an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulted in physical clashes between white nationalist protesters and counterprotesters, as well as the death of one Charlottesville woman after a member of the alt-right drove a car through a crowd of counterprotesters.
In the op-ed, Pearce Tefft describes his youngest son, Peter Tefft, as “an avowed white nationalist” who he says once quipped, “‘The thing about us fascists is, it’s not that we don’t believe in freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want. We’ll just throw you in an oven.’”
In the short letter, the Fargo, North Dakota, resident says he doesn’t know where his son learned the beliefs of the alt-right, but places blame outside the home before calling out his own silence over his son’s actions:
I have shared my home and hearth with friends and acquaintances of every race, gender and creed. I have taught all of my children that all men and women are created equal. That we must love each other all the same.
Evidently Peter has chosen to unlearn these lessons, much to my and his family’s heartbreak and distress. We have been silent up until now, but now we see that this was a mistake. It was the silence of good people that allowed the Nazis to flourish the first time around, and it is the silence of good people that is allowing them to flourish now.
He also prays that his “prodigal son will renounce his hateful beliefs and return home,” but until then, Peter is no longer welcome at family gatherings.
Early Saturday morning, the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist, which dedicates itself to exposing those “who say they're not racist, and then go on to prove otherwise,” asked followers to help identify rally attendees. Several rally participants were publicly identified, including Peter Tefft.
In past local news interviews, Tefft has identified himself as “a white Christian and 100 percent pro-white” and said that “‘White Supremacist’ is a word used to intimidate Christians and to stifle discord when all of us should be communicating.” As recently as Sunday, Tefft tweeted that using the label “Nazi is a racial slur against whites.”
Meanwhile, in a statement to the Forum, Peter Tefft’s nephew Jacob Scott condemned his uncle, alleging that Tefft’s involvement with extremists has invited violent threats to his family. “He scares us all, we don't feel safe around him, and we don't know how he came to be this way,” he wrote. “My grandfather feels especially grieved, as though he has failed as a father."
As a final note to his son, Pearce Tefft wrote in his letter, “Peter, you will have to shovel our bodies into the oven, too. Please son, renounce the hate, accept and love all.”