WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department has suspended a foreign affairs official assigned to its energy bureau, a department source said on Thursday, a day after his links to a white nationalist group were revealed.
The State Department declined to name the official. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization best known for tracking U.S. hate groups, identified him as Matthew Gebert.
Gebert did not respond to several attempts by Reuters to reach him.
The SPLC said in a report published on Wednesday that Gebert hosted white nationalists at his home and published white nationalist propaganda online under a pseudonym.
In a May 2018 podcast, Gebert said whites “need a country of our own with nukes and we will take this thing lickety split,” according to SPLC.
“I am not able to confirm anything from this podium,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told a briefing for reporters when asked whether Gebert had been placed on leave.
A pair of shootings at the weekend in Texas and Ohio has renewed attention on white nationalism and extremism within the United States.
The massacre in the predominantly Hispanic city of El Paso, Texas is being investigated as a hate crime and act of domestic terrorism, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the shooter in Dayton, Ohio also explored violent ideologies.
Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden on Wednesday accused U.S. President Donald Trump of fueling white supremacist beliefs that have been blamed for several U.S. mass shootings.
Trump has insisted he is not a racist and said Americans must “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy” in a speech on Monday.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Bill Rigby