Earlier this week, Sherry Spencer, the mother of white supremacist headline-getter Richard Spencer, said her businesses in the town of Whitefish, Montana, are being targeted because of her son’s beliefs. As one of our readers discovered, Sherry says something slightly different when you try to rent out a vacation apartment from her. I can’t wait for the reader mail I’m about to get!
Spencer owns a mixed-use facility in Whitefish: she runs a real-estate business from there and rents out vacation apartments on sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. Earlier this month, she told an ABC news affiliate in Montana that she was considering selling her property because of the bad press and damaged business that her son’s beliefs have created. (Beliefs that Spencer and her husband say they don’t share.)
But in a recent letter on Medium, Spencer charged that a local realtor named Tanya Gersh, with ties to an activist group called Love Lives Here, was in fact pressuring her to sell her building and threatening pickets and protests if she didn’t. Spencer also said she and her family were receiving “terrible threats,” all apparently stemming from the belief that Richard Spencer runs his white supremacist National Policy Institute from the property. (People have that impression because Spencer lives in Whitefish, as he wrote in an op-ed in 2014, and uses his mom’s home address as a mailing address for NPI’s principal offices, according to state records in Virginia, where NPI is incorporated. The mixed-use building was previously tied to Richard Spencer in legal documents, but as best we can tell hasn’t been since 2014.)
As we wrote Sunday, neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer responded to the controversy by encouraging people to harass Love Lives Here members and Whitefish residents who he suspected were Jewish. Among them was a 12-year-old child, who, before his Twitter account was deactivated, received hundreds of vile tweets, many of them attacking his mother and telling him to climb into an oven. (I will save Andrew some precious time here and note, as I have before, that I too am Jewish and that the Zionist World Government lives beneath his bed, cheerily biding our time.)
All of this is to explain that when a reader who asked for anonymity booked a vacation rental in Montana for the holidays, she was horrified to discover that she’d booked one of Sherry Spencer’s apartments. (The listings are active on both Airbnb and other sites; we are choosing not to link to them because we respect her privacy more than her son’s followers do anybody else’s.) The reader decided she wanted out, which required emailing Spencer.
What followed was this exchange, which she provided to Jezebel, and which Spencer confirmed in our own correspondence with her. In it, Spencer says that anybody renting from her shouldn’t have any safety concerns.
Would Be Renter:
I was aware of the cancellation policy when I booked this property, but since that time this property has been in the news as the possible headquarters of a white supremacists party and a site of local protest. I do not feel safe having my family stay in a home where we could be targeted and I ask that you make an exception and allow us to cancel this booking. The property is highlighted in this news broadcast. This is very bad and makes me feel very unsafe.
The building is strictly about tourism and local business.
We are certain that you will have a good vacation, as is obvious from all the positive guest reviews we’ve received on Booking.com and VRBO.
How can we work with you to alleviate any concerns you may have?
Would Be Renter:
This local news article from yesterday clear [sic] states that people in the building are being targeted:
“Spencer’s parents wrote a letter to the Whitefish community that is published today in the Inter Lake’s opinion section. They say Sherry’s mixed-use building at 22 Lupfer Ave., and its retail tenants have been targeted because of their son’s white nationalist viewpoints.
“Our tenants are innocent victims and their businesses are threatened with boycotts for something over which they have no control. There is no justification for their sustaining collateral damage,” they stated in their letter. “We, too, are victims, having no role in any of the events that have unfolded recently.”
I do not feel safe having my family stay at this house. Please make an exception and allow us a no-penalty cancellation while we look for other accommodations.
In the end, both Spencer and the would-be renter agree that the woman should be able to cancel her reservations with no financial penalty. Sherry Spencer also provided Jezebel and other media outlets with documents showing that in 2014, Richard Spencer transferred all his shares of a family company called Roediger Property Inc. to Sherry.
Said Sherry Spencer in a statement:
I received a request to cancel a reservation from a guest due to unusual circumstances. Even though my refund policy is 30 days or more, I made an exception and accommodated this guest by promptly canceling and refunding fully within the same day.
When I mentioned “terrible threats” in my Medium post, I referred to unwarranted pressure to sell my business—and cause me financial harm—that I worked so hard to build in order to help the Whitefish community, as well as threats of harm to the livelihood of my office tenants. No threats have been directed toward vacation renters.
I have personally received many rude messages and experienced targeted harassment. This, however, did not include explicit physical threats. Also, all the initial harassment came prior to my releasing legal documentation, which I had done last week, to prove that I am the sole owner of the property and that the property’s explicit purpose is vacation and business rentals, not politics.
It’s certainly understandable that Spencer would want to try to preserve her business and would object to being tied to her son’s views if she doesn’t hold them herself. She and her husband Dr. Rand Spencer wrote an op-ed for the Daily Interlake, the local paper, on Monday, denying that they hold any racist beliefs and saying again that the building has been targeted for potential protests, making the business tenants “collateral damage:”
Spencer has indicated in several interviews that he’ll be decamping from Montana to spend more time in DC, where he quite reasonably hopes he’ll have a good chance under Trump to advance NPI’s agenda. (The group was based in DC prior to 2007, but Spencer moved it to Montana that year upon taking control of it, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.)
In the meantime, he released a YouTube statement Tuesday night accusing “rats” (he likely means Jews) of attacking his mother, and dismissing any threats or harassment against Gersh, Love Lives Here, or their family members as “just mean words. Just pixels. It’s not on the level, morally, ethically, and quite possibly legally of trying to force a sale, of trying to take away the property of an innocent woman.” (Correction: “Rats” is the wording used by anti-Semitic channel End the Reds, who re-posted Spencer’s statement, not by Spencer himself. He’s smarter than that.)
It’s a tough situation. But certainly we can all agree that threats are bad, threats of physical harm are worse, and the root cause of all of this is Richard Spencer’s terrible beliefs.