Laura Loomer, banned on much of social media, wins Republican primary and praise from Trump
White House says Trump 'hasn't done a deep dive' on Islamophobic comments from Loomer, Taylor Greene
A far-right online provocateur whose hate speech got her banned from many social media platforms won her Republican primary on Tuesday and will challenge Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel for Congress in November.
Laura Loomer also won praise from U.S. President Donald Trump early Wednesday, who retweeted several posts on her victory and said: "Great going Laura. You have a great chance against a [Nancy] Pelosi puppet!"
Trump's new official residence, his Mar-a-Lago resort, is in Loomer's district.
The White House tried to downplay the support when a reporter at Wednesday's briefing asked about Trump's tweet and a similar one he sent out last week for Republican candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has made Islamophobic comments in the past and expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy.
"The president routinely congratulates people who officially get the Republican nomination for Congress, so he does that as a matter of course," said Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. "He hasn't done a deep dive into the statements by these two particular women."
McEnany said that Trump "supports the Muslim community."
Despite the president's confidence, Loomer, 27, will be a heavy underdog.
Frankel, 72, has been a political fixture for decades in the Palm Beach County district, which is so firmly Democratic that Republicans have only run a candidate in one of the four previous elections since its current boundaries were drawn in 2012. Frankel beat that challenger in 2016 by 27 points.
Loomer received 43 per cent in a six-candidate Republican field, garnering 14,500 votes. Combined, the Republican candidates totalled 34,000 votes. Frankel, running against a political newcomer, received 75,000 votes, or 86 per cent in the Democratic primary, which had 87,000 votes cast.
At Loomer's victory party Tuesday night, according to the Palm Beach Post, she was feted by political provocateur Roger Stone, whose prison sentence for lying to Congress was recently commuted by Trump; right-wing writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, who got fired by the website Breitbart in 2017 after he praised same-sex pedophilia; and Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, a male-only group that describes itself as "Western Chauvinist" but has been deemed a white nationalist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"Lois Frankel doesn't know it yet, but she is going to get Laura Loomered," Stone told the crowd, calling Loomer the "Joan of Arc of the conservative movement."
Yiannopoulos told the crowd that Loomer is an "extraordinary woman" who has gone from "hell-raising activist" to "a true political phenomenon."
Neither campaign immediately responded to requests for interviews.
Loomer has been a guest on Fox News and alt-right programs after gaining followers by ambushing journalists and politicians in stunts posted online. She also worked for a time for Canada's Rebel Media.
Series of bans
After trying to hoax journalists with the controversial Project Veritas group, Loomer moved to direct confrontations with public figures in recent years, disrupting interviews and news conferences.
At a 2018 campaign event for Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum at a Broward County synagogue covered by an Associated Press reporter, the synagogue's staff asked Loomer and a male companion to leave because they had disrupted previous Gillum events.
When they refused, the staff had police escort them out. She yelled loudly, comparing her treatment to Nazis throwing Jews out of synagogues. It got her on TV news and the internet video went viral.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, PayPal, Venmo, GoFundMe, Uber and Lyft have banned her, but her messages get out through tweets by supporters and other workarounds, the Palm Beach Post reported.
As well, she makes use of platforms Gab and Parler.
The ban from the ride-sharing companies came about after she tweeted "someone needs to create a non-Islamic form" of ridesharing so that she wouldn't have to support "another Islamic immigrant driver."
The final straw for Twitter in late 2018 were tweets in which she characterized Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, as anti-Jewish and a supporter of Sharia law as well as female genital mutilation.
Earlier that year she accosted Omar and her fellow Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, also a Muslim, at a Michigan event.
Soon after Twitter's action, Loomer handcuffed herself to the company's New York headquarters in protest.
'Laura Loomer has moxie': congressman
In May 2019, Loomer was among several individuals banned by Facebook for promoting violence or hate on the platform.
Loomer's campaign advisor is Karen Giorno, a political strategist who worked for Gov. Rick Scott and Trump's 2016 campaign in Florida.
Some groups on the left quickly pounced on Trump's expression of support on Wednesday.
"Donate to Florida Rep. Lois Frankel who is running against rabid racist Laura Loomer who Donald Trump just personally congratulated," tweeted the activist Democratic Coalition.
Republicans in Congress have been largely silent about her campaign, though Arizona congressman Paul Gosar has repeatedly tweeted his support.
"Laura Loomer has moxie and is the perfect person to represent Trump's home district," Gosar said in May.
Donors have contributed at least $1.1 million US to her campaign, according to an online Federal Election Commission database, and include Infowars host Alex Jones, banned on Facebook the very same day as Loomer.
With files from CBC News