A federal program intended to give a hand-up to struggling business owners during the pandemic gave a hand-out to a white nationalist publisher, The Daily Beast has learned.
According to nonprofit newsroom ProPublica’s Paycheck Protection Program database, the Small Business Administration earlier this year forgave a $76,106 loan to Happy Penguins LLC. Despite the innocuous name, incorporation records show this Litchfield, Connecticut entity belongs to Peter Brimelow, head of the VDARE Foundation and its eponymous website, and to his wife, who serves as the nonprofit’s advancement officer.
An immigrant from the United Kingdom himself, Brimelow has long been a bitter polemicist against nonwhite arrivals to the United States, and has claimed that Latinos “specialize in rape, particularly of children” and that “Haitians have very high crime levels.” But he has denied being a white nationalist personally, even unsuccessfully suing the New York Times last year for applying the label to him. A veteran of Forbes and the National Review, he has also maintained ties to elements of the conservative mainstream: Trump’s White House economic adviser even invited Brimelow to his birthday party in 2018, and admitted to repeatedly hosting him at his residence, though he denied familiarity with his work.
VDARE’s penchant for publishing race rants, conspiracy theories, and manifestos by such white nationalist authors as American Renaissance founder Jared Taylor has gotten it kicked off platforms ranging from Facebook to Paypal. The group is named for Virginia Dare, the first child of English descent born in its American colonies, now a hallowed figure in white supremacist lore.
Jared Holt, a resident fellow and expert on extremism with the nonpartisan Atlantic Council, characterized Brimelow as a “suit-and-tie type” with intellectual pretensions, despite VDARE’s increasing engagement with the racist far-right.
“VDARE’s reputation is pretty egregious,” said Holt. “This is a type of white nationalist organization that is trying to posture itself as ‘the thinking man’s white nationalism.’ Any instances where they are obtaining any veneer of legitimacy are very concerning.”
As Holt noted, VDARE has hardly been hurting for funds; it sparked fury in a small West Virginia town last year when it purchased a 132-year-old castle for $1.4 million. Happy Penguins, too, has long enjoyed a robust cash flow: Internal Revenue Service records show that the VDARE Foundation paid it $411,003 for “leased employees” in 2019, the most recent year for which filings are available. The nonprofit routed the company $181,675 in 2018 and $148,303 the year before that.
Brimelow, who received a direct salary of $345,364 from the VDARE Foundation in 2019, told the Associated Press in 2016 that he uses Happy Penguins to pay himself and other employees. As of 2019, both the Foundation and the LLC operated out of his home address in Litchfield, which he put up for sale earlier this year. The ProPublica database indicates Happy Penguins reported having two people on payroll when it applied for the PPP loan.
Brimelow did not respond to repeated requests for comment, and so it is impossible to know at present whether he was one of the two individuals whose job the federal funds served to preserve.
Holt remarked on the irony of the Brimelows, whose website publishes articles with headlines like “How Much Of The 53% Murder Surge Is Due To Masks?” and “The Grand Farce of American Social Distancing,” appealing to the federal government for financial support during the pandemic. But he noted that the rules Congress established for the program do not discriminate based on the content or character of a company’s work, and grants forgiveness based on whether the enterprise keeps employee compensation constant and dedicates the funds only to approved expenses.
“I guess they’re entitled to apply for this assistance as any other business is,” Holt said.
The Small Business Administration declined to comment on Happy Penguins’ case as a matter of policy, just as it did when The Daily Beast previously reported it had forgiven more than $1 million in PPP loans to leading anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists.