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Some lawmakers are eager to scrutinize hate groups

William Douglas, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- For years, Republicans have watched white supremacists claim the Republican Party is on their side. And on Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers did little to crack down on race-based hate groups.

But now Democrats are in charge of the House.

And that means Bennie Thompson, a black Democratic congressman from Mississippi, is in charge of the House Homeland Security Committee.

He plans to act.

Thompson intends to hold hearings on what experts say is a growth of right-wing extremism in America.

"There are some people, I understand, who have belonged to those groups in the past, so there might be an opportunity for dialog there," Thompson said.

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After a woman died in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 after a rally by white supremacists, Congress passed a resolution condemning the march. Though President Donald Trump signed the measure, and said he opposed hatred, bigotry and racism, he said earlier the same day "You got some very bad people on the other side also."

Hate crimes have increased significantly in recent years, but the House last year took no final action to help curb the trend. And the White House and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, have been criticized for indicating sympathy for white nationalists before clarifying they were against hate and bigotry.

Several terrorism experts say attention to the issue is long overdue.

They say the government has largely ignored the growth of a violent far right that exploded into the public consciousness with the explosion of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, by Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government extremist.

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