A former Montana political candidate long accused by a major anti-hate group of pushing white nationalist views was commissioned into the Montana National Guard as a new infantry officer in 2020 and is still in the service.
Taylor Rose currently serves as a second lieutenant in C Company, 1st Battalion, 163rd Cavalry Regiment, based out of Great Falls, Montana. He lost his 2016 bid running as a Republican for the state's third state House district.
Before his National Guard commission, Rose, a 2011 graduate of Liberty University, frequently argued for the defense of "Western culture," leading the Southern Poverty Law Center to label him a white nationalist in 2016. He was a key member of the now-defunct Youth for Western Civilization, or YWC, a far-right college campus group that advocated for the preservation of American and European heritage and warned against cultural mixing.
The National Guard in recent years has struggled with apparent extremism in its ranks as the military reckons with understanding the scope of the issue of service members becoming radicalized.
In 2019, a local paper reported that Montana State University Army ROTC cadet Jay Harrison was under investigation for potential ties to Identity Evropa, a now-defunct organization designated by the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center as a white supremacist hate group.
Rose became active with YWC at Liberty University. While running for office, he defended his association to a local paper, saying, "YWC was a cultural group, not a racist group."
In a brief phone call Tuesday with Military.com, Rose disputed that he is a white nationalist and said he has since moved on from politics, but declined to discuss in detail what beliefs he previously had or those he holds today and suggested he would seek legal action after this story's publication. He terminated the interview when asked about his involvement with Youth for Western Civilization.
On the YWC's website, which has since been taken down, an article attributed to Rose describes that the organization wanted to "declare to the world that we will not falter nor fail in our attempt for the defense of the Western homeland."
In an interview with Fox News, the group's founder, Kevin DeAnna, listed "mass immigration" and "multiculturalism" as top concerns for YWC. Another former leader of a YWC chapter, Matthew Heimbach, attempted to start a "White-Pride" organization at Towson University in 2012. Two different chapters of YWC invited Richard B. Spencer, one of the country's most famous white nationalists and a white supremacist, to speak at Vanderbilt University and Providence College.
"I am not a white supremacist; I have never held those views," Rose told Military.com. "These are lies brought up by the extreme left during a political campaign where I received generous support from the Republican Party, which is hardly an extremist organization. I was vetted by the party. … I was vetted by the military at multiple deep levels, and nobody figured there was anything wrong with my [background.]"
Days after Rose spoke with Military.com the publication was contacted by Stephen Bowers who identified himself as the former “faculty supervisor” to YWC at Liberty University, where he taught classes on government.
“The mission of YWC was to promote the classical values of Western civilization and in no way was it a white nationalist organization,” he wrote in an email. “It is not possible for the LU [Liberty University] branch of YWC to be racist. I would not have supported the organization, nor would Taylor have supported it and Liberty University allowed the organization being on campus.”
He added, “Taylor Rose was always an upstanding student and I have come to know him very closely. He is not a racist nor a bad person. It is the good values he adheres to that inspired him to join the Army and serve his state and country. As someone who spent 24 years in the Army I can see the high values that have motivated his service.”
There has been growing concern among experts about white supremacists and others aligned with extremist ideology joining the military. On Aug. 26, 21-year-old Killian Ryan, a soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division, based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was arrested on charges accusing him of lying on security clearance paperwork. Federal authorities alleged that Ryan was a self-proclaimed white supremacist, saying on social media that he joined the military to be "more proficient in killing n-----s," according to court records.
The Pentagon has said that it has been working to find better ways to keep those tied to extremist groups and ideologies from joining its ranks following the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, during which a pro-Trump mob, including service members and veterans, attempted to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
The Wisconsin and Virginia National Guards both had infantrymen who were part of the crowd that ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. It took more than a year for the two to be removed from the service component.
The Pentagon’s efforts against extremism have been slow, but include modifications to the screening process that aims to assess a potential recruit's extremist ties. That process largely relies on questions asked of recruits, meaning that potential service members would ostensibly have to self-identify as being associated with extremist groups or causes.
The Defense Departments Countering Extremism working group also recommended that the military find better ways to screen publicly available information, like social media posts, for signs that service members might be associated with extremist causes.
"The Montana National Guard will not tolerate, condone or permit any form of discrimination," Maj. Gen. John "Pete" Hronek, the adjutant general for Montana, said in a statement to Military.com. "Any behavior that violates these policies is not in alignment with the Army Values and does not represent us as an organization. We take seriously all allegations of violations of our policies and values, and will resolve them in accordance with due process."
A spokesperson with the Montana National Guard declined to comment on whether Rose is under any sort of investigation, or whether his background check included review of his association with far-right groups.
There's no evidence service members or veterans are more likely to become radicalized. But those with a military background are targeted by extremist groups for recruitment, as even basic military training is seen as valuable and for the inherent social credibility they bring.
"[Rose] getting in is proof that military recruiting is absolute trash when it comes to white supremacists," Kristofer Goldsmith, an Army veteran and CEO of Sparverius, a firm that tracks disinformation and domestic extremism. "Either the recruiter is complicit, purposefully putting a white supremacist into uniform, or incompetent and doesn't bother to Google a recruit's name."
Rose has a long history of writing against multiculturalism, using language often employed by white nationalists as noted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Defamation League and other groups.
Rose wrote an article that appeared in the Citizen Informer, a newspaper run by the Council of Conservative Citizens, an overtly white nationalist group, which says in its mission statement, "We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people.
Rose also published a book in 2012, "Return of the Right: How the Political Right Is Taking Back Western Civilization," which includes passages that specifically argue for the preservation of Western civilization against perceived threats from multiculturalism, language that is common among white nationalist groups arguing against multiracial countries.
"[It's] clearly being shown in the Western world, an aggressive attempt is being made to create this utopian vision," Rose wrote. "It is very aggressive and dedicated to its vision to destroy the nation-state, eliminate religion, break down all defined barriers in society (such as family) and eliminate western civilization from the face of the earth in the attempt to institute a radical, multicultural, New World Order agenda -- and the architects and visionaries of this dream are on the verge of victory," according to excerpts of the book posted on Amazon.
During his campaign, Rose was endorsed by the American Freedom Party, in its list of "nationalist candidates" in a 2016 newsletter on the same page as an article that suggested white slavery was more pervasive and brutal than the African slave trade. The party's mission statement says it aims to protect white identity.
Rose had a significant presence on social media during his run for office, raising issues with the removal of Confederate monuments, many of which were erected long after the Civil War to intimidate Black Americans, and writing, "I want out of this mad-house," when commenting on a story about a white couple having Black babies.
In his Twitter profile from that time, accessed using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, he describes himself as "Working to build an #Anglosphere." However, Rose has scrubbed much of his social media since 2016.
Over the years, Rose frequently wrote about or participated in far-right movements in Europe as well, particularly the United Kingdom and Germany. In his Citizen Informer article, he wrote about lessons the Republican Party could learn from right-wing political parties in Europe, saying, "America can still 'be taken back' from the Manchurians that rule it, but will require a massive mobilization and organization of the proper demographics. … If American nationalists decided to show up at Tea Party rallies and meetings and push for white working class advocacy, the debate and structure would change in the favor [of] the American Right. Over a very short period of time the national debate could change from amnesty to deportation, from free trade agreements."
It is unclear when that article was written.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.