National News

The white nationalist whose father disowned him says family was doing the 'safest thing'

Posted August 15, 2017 2:37 p.m. EDT

The white nationalist whose father penned a now widely-shared, heartfelt letter disavowing him said he doesn't hold a grudge against his family because it was the "safest thing they could do in this political climate."

Pete Tefft, who attended several white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, told CNN affiliate WDAY he's not a racist and denounced the Nazi designation but didn't contest the fascist label.

"I think fascism is just loving your family and doing what's best for your nation," Tefft told the affiliate.

Tefft, who is from Fargo, North Dakota, was one of hundreds who traveled to Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. He was first identified by the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist, which has been outing far-right demonstrators.

That was Saturday.

Two days later, Tefft's father submitted a piece to the Inforum in which he denounced Tefft's "vile, hateful and racist rhetoric and actions."

"Peter Tefft, my son, is not welcome at our family gatherings any longer," the father wrote. "I pray my prodigal son will renounce his hateful beliefs and return home. Then and only then will I lay out the feast."

CNN has tried to reach Tefft's family members and Tefft himself several times without success.

The heartbreaking letter

In the letter to his son, Pearce Tefft said he didn't teach his child the beliefs espoused by the Charlottesville protesters and doesn't know where the younger man learned them.

"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," Pierce Tefft writes.

"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."

In the letter, Pierce claimed his son's "hateful opinions" have brought "hateful rhetoric" to the rest of his family.

"Why must we be guilty by association? Again, none of his beliefs were learned at home. We do not, never have, and never will, accept his twisted worldview," the letter continues.

"(Pete) once joked, '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.' Peter, you will have to shovel our bodies into the oven, too. Please son, renounce the hate, accept and love all."

The reaction to his participation

Jacob Scott Wieber, a man who identified himself as Pete Tefft's nephew, told CNN affiliate WDAY that members of their family have been targeted by death threats over Tefft's actions.

"It's especially annoying when -- of course, people online, of course -- assume your family is associated with that," Wieber told the affiliate "'Oh, the apple can't fall far from the tree, he must have learned this at home.' Well, no, he didn't. He learned the exact opposite at home, and he chose to unlearn those progressive lessons."

Wieber said Tefft was radicalized online years ago and his family has "disinherited" him ever since.

"If he has any love left in his little hateful heart for us, he should change his name and stop bringing shame on the Tefft family," Wieber said.

But Tefft told the affiliate he still feels safe and supported in Fargo. He added that he plans to host a pro-white civil rights rally in Fargo in October.