Founded 1979, the Claremont Institute is a right-wing think tank that aims to “act as a linkage between the theoretical work of academics and the practical work of legislators.” According to a Los Angeles Times profile, Claremont’s mission is to steer the United States “away from its present, perilous path of political and moral ‘degradation’” and “train a Franklin Roosevelt who will then overthrow the New Deal.” The Institute runs the influential right-wing publications The Claremont Review of Books and The American Mind.
The Claremont Institute has served as one of the main intellectual centers of Trumpism and far-right MAGA ideology. Claremont has been called the “nerve center for the American right” as well as “the poster child for […] simple-minded racism, immature oppositional thinking and reactionary authoritarianism.” In 2019, The National Review, a prominent conservative publication, said that Claremont’s politics “would make its founders weep.”
The Institute was founded by students of right-wing philosopher Harry Jaffa, best remembered for his work writing speeches for 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater that cemented his reputation as a right-wing extremist. Jaffa embraced the belief that America was the vanguard of Western civilization and could only be protected by engaging in far-right social politics and ultra-nationalism. Jaffa lamented that “at any liberal arts college, people with views of our persuasion are about as welcome as a Jew in Nazi Germany.”
Long seen as a less prominent “ideological [cousin]” to other right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, Claremont became a leading right-wing voice during the Trump administration. Claremont saw Trump as a vehicle for its battle against “multiculturalism” and moral depravity, a key figure who could bring about domestic “regime change” and overthrow so-called ruling liberal elites. Claremont provided an intellectual framework for Trump as he scorned traditional academics and experts.
Numerous high-profile Claremont fellows and staffers directly supported the Trump Administration, including Michael Buschbacher, Michael Anton, Michael Pack, white nationalist Darren Beatie, and John Eastman — who was recently indicted in both federal and state courts for providing Trump with a legal framework to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Other Claremont leaders, such as Anton, promoted conspiracies about the election. The Institute stood behind Eastman as other prominent institutions “treated him as a pariah.”
As director of Claremont’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Eastman filed amicus briefs in key Supreme Court cases following the January 6th Capitol riot, including in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, which overturned affirmative action, West Virginia v. EPA, which significantly restricted the federal government’s ability to enforce critical environmental protections, and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once said that Claremont “played a significant role” in his education, and is known to cite Jaffa’s work in his jurisprudence.
Following the rise of Trump, Claremont was accused of promoting fascism and anti-democracy ideals. The Institute’s president Ryan Williams told The Atlantic that “the Constitution is really only fit for a Christian people” and tensions between the Christian right and the non-Christian left could lead to violence. Claremont’s board chair announced that America was in the midst of a “Cold Civil War,” positing that Republicans must “fight as if the choice were between liberty and death.” Claremont published the work of an author with close ties to a neo-Nazi publisher, platformed the ideas of prominent “alt-right” thinkers, and recruited far-right Holocaust deniers and conspiracists to its various fellowship programs.
Since aiding the January 6th insurrection, Claremont has remained active at the forefront of far-right politics, helping prominent leaders launch a policy war on diversity programs and anti-racist initiatives. In February 2021, Claremont opened a Washington D.C. branch – cementing its power and influence in mainstream Republican politics.
Ryan Williams became president of Claremont in 2017 after working within the Institute for over a decade. Williams has expressed his desire “to effect a realignment of our politics and take control of all three branches of government for a generation or two,” and believes that “the Constitution is really only fit for a Christian people.” Under Williams’ tenure, Claremont took a more active role in politics, strongly backing the Trump administration and aiding in its policy goals.
Williams also hired younger staff and launched The American Mind, known to publish far-right essays from pseudonymous authors. Williams stated that he was “harnessing some of the energy that he saw among young people who were being drawn to the alt-right” and other far-right ideologies popular online. After Claremont senior fellow John Eastman was revealed to be a key figure in attempts to overthrow the 2020 election, Williams co-authored a statement in 2021 in defense of Eastman.
Williams attended Hillsdale College, which is closely tied to Claremont.
Thomas Klingenstein is chairman of Claremont’s board and its largest individual donor, having given the organization over $19 million over the past two decades. Klingenstein is an investment banker and right-wing megadonor, giving more than $11.6 million to Republican candidates and causes since the 2020 election cycle, including Club For Growth, American Leadership PAC, and the American Principles Project PAC.
In 2021, Klingenstein helped launch a super PAC called American Firebrand, founded by Claremont alumni. In the organization’s launch videos, Klingenstein claimed America was in the midst of a “Cold Civil War […] between those who want to preserve the American way of life, and those who want to destroy it.” In a later video, Klingenstein claimed that “Republicans must understand that we are in a war and then act accordingly.” Klingenstein donated $500,000 to Firebrand PAC between 2021 and 2022.
John Eastman is a Claremont senior fellow, board member, and the founding director of the Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. He is a former dean at Chapman University Law School who unsuccessfully ran for Congress and California attorney general. He also served as director of Congressional & Public Affairs at the United States Commission on Civil Rights during the Reagan administration. In addition to his position at Claremont, he has served on the boards of the anti-LGBTQ National Organization for Marriage and election conspiracy hub Public Interest Legal Foundation, and was a prominent member of the Federalist Society.
Eastman drew Trump’s attention when he appeared on Fox News in 2019. Trump personally asked Eastman to pressure then-Attorney General Bill Barr to unilaterally impose birthright citizenship, a longstanding cause of Eastman. In the run-up to the 2020 election, Eastman published a piece founded on the conspiracy that Kamala Harris was not eligible to serve as vice president because her parents were undocumented immigrants at the time of her birth.
Eastman was influential in attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Among the various actions he took himself to overturn election results, Eastman presented a six-point plan to Trump and Pence, which sought to throw out electors and block certification of the election. Eastman also pressured Pence to violate the Electoral Count Act to delay certification, an act which Eastman acknowledged violated federal law, though he described the illegal proposal as a “relatively minor violation.” He was also a speaker at the Trump rally that preceded the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021. He has since been indicted multiple times in both federal and state courts for his role in the attempted insurrection.
Claremont has stood behind Eastman, still listing him on their website. Claremont issued a statement after the Capitol riot that defended Eastman, claiming that “a campaign is trying to prevent the Claremont Institute or its scholars from presenting our views.”
Michael Anton is a senior fellow at Claremont who was a speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani, Rupert Murdoch, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Anton served as the spokesperson for the National Security Council and was named to the National Board For Educational Sciences in the waning days of the Trump administration. He is currently a lecturer and research fellow at Hillsdale College. A longtime opponent of birthright citizenship, Anton wrote a 2019 essay that was sympathetic to the ideas of a leading fascist figure.
Weeks before the 2016 election, Anton published the essay “The Flight 93 Election” that compared a potential Hillary Clinton presidency to 9/11 and urged conservatives to “storm the cockpit” by voting for Trump. Anton specifically claimed that Trump stood against the “ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for or experience in liberty.” In the leadup to the 2020 election, Anton wrote an essay that claimed that Democrats were openly planning a coup. After the election was called for Biden, Anton wrote another essay that called for widespread grassroots action to challenge the election results, which he claimed were tainted by interference from Democrats. After the events of the January 6th insurrection, Anton blamed the Capitol riot on “the ruling class’s decades-long betrayal and despoliation of what would eventually come to be called Red or Deplorable or Flyover America.”
Anton is a lead fellow at Claremont. He worked for George W. Bush’s and Trump’s National Security Council and lectured at Hillsdale College’s D.C. portal campus.
The Claremont Institute emerged from the intellectual tradition of right-wing political philosopher Harry Jaffa. Jaffa was a disciple of German-American philosopher Leo Strauss, who sought to form a new intellectual approach that aimed to separate American democracy from materialism through the study of the classics in the Western philosophical canon.
After Strauss’s death, his intellectual legacy split into East Coast and West Coast camps. Jaffa was a key figure in the West Coast school. West Coast Straussians drew strongly upon the classics and held fervent belief in America as the culmination of the Western tradition, a city upon the hill that must be protected. In philosophical terms, West Coast Straussians believe that the survival of America depended on the moral virtue of its people rather than constitutional and legal norms. In political terms, West Coast Straussianism aligned itself with right-wing grassroots movements, social conservatism, and ultra-nationalism.
Jaffa made his name as a scholar of Abraham Lincoln and for writing speeches for 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Goldwater’s presidential run pushed ultra-conservative views into the mainstream and signaled a reorientation of American political geography over the civil rights movement, cleaving southern Democrats who opposed desegregation into the Republican Party. Jaffa famously wrote the line “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice […] and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue” for Goldwater, which was seized upon by his opponents to paint Goldwater as a right-wing extremist. According to The New Yorker, Jaffa’s speech “[remains] Goldwater’s best-known, and most reviled, words.”
Jaffa complained that “at any liberal arts college, people with views of our persuasion are about as welcome as a Jew in Nazi Germany.” He compared the environmental movement to socialism and political correctness to Marxism, and was deeply homophobic, regularly referring to gay people as “sodomites” and saying that through AIDS, “God and nature have exacted terrible retribution.” The latter quote came from a review Jaffa wrote about the book of a former friend, Allan Bloom, a gay man who was rumored to have died of AIDS, shortly before Bloom’s death.
Jaffa’s scholarship on President Lincoln and his work for Barry Goldwater drew the attention of Henry Salvatori, a western oil tycoon and powerful Republican donor who served as an advisor to Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford. Salvatori was outspoken and a key ally to Reagan’s rise in California politics and he recruited Jaffa to work at Claremont McKenna College in northern California in 1964. Jaffa was influential at Claremont College and built a devoted following of graduate students on campus.
The Claremont Institute was founded by students of Jaffa in 1979 to spread his ideas to the larger public. One of the first programs they launched was the Publius fellowship, a six-week seminar series the Institute still holds today. The Claremont Institute is not affiliated with Claremont College.
The 1970s marked a period of cultural and political upheaval – the end of the Vietnam War, the energy crisis, stagflation – and saw the rise of now-prominent right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and the Manhattan Institute. Claremont’s West Coast location and anti-establishment streak positioned the Institute as an outsider in comparison to more prominent think tanks. As the Heritage Foundation wrote policy manuals for the Reagan Administration, Claremont defined itself as a successor to the rugged patriotism of the frontier and sought to primarily influence public sentiment and conservative political theory. During this time, The Claremont Review of Books became “one of the most reputed cultural and literary publications of the American right,” according to the New York Times.
Despite its nonpolitical aspirations, Claremont did manage to influence the Republican mainstream. Peter Schramm, a founding member of Claremont, served in the Reagan Education Department. Claremont was also highly active in California politics, training and courting policy makers in the state. Notably, the Institute originated the framework for Proposition 209 in 1996, which effectively ended affirmative action in public education, employment, or contracting in the state of California.
The Institute also trained a notable figure: future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. When Thomas served as the Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he hired two Claremont Institute scholars, Ken Masgui and John Marini, as aides. Thomas has cited Masugi and Maraini as his ideological tutors and said that Claremont “played a significant role in my own education.” Thomas is known to cite Jaffa’s work in his juridical thinking, particularly Jaffa’s fixation on “natural law” doctrine. Thomas specifically cited a 1988 Jaffa article that suggested that the Griswold decision that legalized birth control was unconstitutional under “natural law” doctrine.
A 2001 Los Angeles Times profile described Claremont as “somewhere to the right of George W. Bush.” The Institute opposed the Iraq War and positioned itself as anti-establishment conservatives during the reign of Neocons during the 2000s, claiming that they were “never shy about criticizing Republicans.” Claremont was also opposed to Bush’s immigration reforms for the same reasons they opposed the nation-building goals of the Iraq War – that democracy requires a strong Western historical and cultural tradition to support its self-governance.
Claremont’s battle against perceived moral “degradation” reached desperation in the 2010s, with many at the Institute believing that America had entered a period of steep cultural decline that was accelerated by demands for racial and gender equality. Senior Claremont fellow Charles Kesler claimed that the Institute “evolved in the direction of impatience” by this perceived decline. Kesler added that the Institute concluded that there was an unsustainable “legitimacy crisis in America” due to the sharp divide between liberals and conservatives.
Trump presented an opportunity for Claremont to ally itself with a warrior against so-called moral degeneracy — if it was willing to overlook Trump’s own morally problematic behavior. If guided by the right hand, some believed, Trump could bring a nationalist focus to U.S. policies, increase the presence of right-wing judges in the federal court system, and dismantle federal regulatory bureaucracy. If anything, they thought, Trump’s outsider and non-scholarly approach to politics would allow for a more aggressive approach. This inspired Claremont to take a more active approach to politics. Prominent Republican “never-Trump” commentator Bill Kristol argued that Claremont “saw Trump as a vehicle for their ambitions” which “always had a streak of radicalism.”
Former Claremont fellow Michael Buschbacher spoke in biblical terms about the potential risks presented by working for Trump: to “do great work, but know where your loyalty lies, not with earthly power, but with truth.” Buschbacher later worked for Jeffrey Clark, Trump’s assistant attorney general who was identified as one of the unnamed co-conspirators in a federal prosecution against Trump for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
Claremont published one of the first “anti-anti-Trump” essays in 2015, according to the New York Times. The essay argued “that such a flawed contender could be a front-runner tells us more about what’s wrong with the country than about what’s wrong with his followers.” Despite Trump’s misgivings, the essay argued, he had all of the right enemies in the elite ruling class and was therefore the most likely candidate to revolt against the moral degeneration of America foisted upon its people.
Weeks before the 2016 election, Claremont senior fellow Michael Anton published the essay “The Flight 93 Election” under a pseudonym in The Claremont Review Of Books. The essay argued that allowing Hillary Clinton to win the presidency was the equivalent of Americans allowing a hijacked plane to commit a terrorist attack, and urged conservatives to “storm the cockpit” by voting for Trump. Anton specifically claimed that Trump stood against the “ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for or experience in liberty.” The essay sparked backlash and was seen as a pivotal moment for Claremont internally. Anton later claimed that his essay turned Trump from a “buffoon” into a legitimate candidate.
Claremont shared Trump’s Washington outsider status, allowing the organization to exert more influence on his administration compared to previous Republican presidencies. Claremont saw Trump as an opportunity to venture further from its philosophical ambitions and “become a little more ‘small-p’ political,” according to Claremont board chair and major donor Thomas Klingenstein. Claremont disciples filled the ranks of the Trump administration, including:
During the Trump years, Claremont opened a Washington D.C. location – representing a notable departure from its California-centric approach and its growing influence on the right. Claremont chairman Thomas Klingenstein told The New York Times in 2022 that “if there is within the conservative movement a kind of intellectual justification for Trump, it comes from Claremont.” Trump awarded Claremont with the National Humanities Medal in 2019.
In September 2020, former Trump National Security Council Spokesman and Claremont fellow Michale Anton published an essay that claimed that Democrats were openly planning a coup. On November 4, 2020, Anton published a second essay in Claremont’s American Mind titled “Game on for the Coup?” where he argued that widespread grassroots and legal action was necessary to challenge the presidential election results, which he alleged were tainted by Democratic interference.
The editors of Claremont’s The American Mind published a statement on November 5, 2020, shortly after the election was called for Joe Biden, claiming that “the 2020 election is not over. The fight has just begun,” and asking Republicans to engage in “rallies and protests as well as [investigations]” to push back on “all wrongdoing in the attempt to steal this election.” American Mind’s editors specifically called on Trump to hold “huge” rallies and for fellow right-wingers to call out “all weak sisters on the right,” invoking military doctrine.
One of the most important figures in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election was Claremont Institute senior fellow John Eastman. Eastman is also the founding director of Claremont’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and was listed as a board member on Claremont’s most recent tax filing. Trump’s team reached out to Eastman almost immediately after the election was called for Joe Biden. Eastman represented Trump in a Supreme Court case filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton disputing the election results in December 2020.
Eastman claimed in emails with Trump lawyers that he was aware of a “heated fight” among the Supreme Court justices about whether to hear arguments in a Wisconsin case relating to the election results. Eastman clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and is close friends with Thomas and his wife, Ginni. Ginni Thomas reached out to Eastman around the same time the Texas lawsuit was filed, asking him to speak to a right-wing activist group about attempts to dispute the election results. Ginni Thomas personally attempted to overturn the election, pressuring lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin to toss the popular vote in their states and texting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows conspiracy theories about the election to agitate efforts to dispute it.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the Texas case, and Eastman plotted with Trump’s lawyers about potentially filing a new emergency case before the Supreme Court that would directly appeal to Clarence Thomas, who they believed may be sympathetic to their arguments. Eastman and Trump’s legal team believed that if there was an ongoing case then they could pressure Congress to delay ratifying the election. Instead of filing a new case, Trump instead tapped Eastman to write a memo outlining a plan to overturn the election on January 6, 2021 – the date the election results were to be ratified by Congress.
On January 2, 2021, Eastman appeared on former Trump advisor and white nationalist figure Steve Bannon’s podcast to promote a widely discredited theory that Vice President Mike Pence could reject official electoral totals. Eastman claimed that if Pence had enough “courage and the spine” he could overturn the election. Two days later on January 4, 2021, Eastman presented Trump and Pence with a memo outlining a six-point plan to overturn the election, based on the same theory he espoused on Bannon’s podcast. Pence rebuffed Eastman’s proposals. Eastman also sent the memo to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who dismissed the plan.
On the morning of January 6, 2021, Eastman spoke at the rally preceding the attack on the Capitol, claiming that the election was stolen. Eastman emailed Pence’s chief of staff while the Capitol riot was happening, saying “the ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary.” After the Capitol was cleared, Pence allowed members of Congress to give speeches before counting resumed, saying he would not count the time from statements made before the riot against the time allotted under the Electoral Count Act. Eastman emailed Pence’s chief of staff again, arguing that, since Pence technically already violated the Electoral Count Act by allowing more speeches, Pence could reject the election results on a technicality. The day after the Capitol riot, Eastman attempted to edit his Wikipedia page to more favorably characterize his role in Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. Weeks after the Capitol Riot, Eastman blamed the violence on left-wing agitators rather than Trump supporters, a right-wing conspiracy that emerged to downplay the attempted insurrection.
Eastman’s prominent role in Trump’s attempted insurrection was met with swift backlash. 140 faculty members at Chapman University, where Eastman was a professor and law school dean, demanded he be disciplined and Eastman quickly resigned. In October 2021, Eastman was the subject of a California Bar complaint that sought to disbar him. In March 2022, a federal judge found that Eastman likely committed crimes during his attempts to overturn the election. Eastman continued to pressure state governments to overturn their election results into 2022.
Eastman was subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on January 6th, which he resisted. The committee later recommended Eastman be formally charged for officiating a conspiracy for a variety of crimes. In August 2023, Eastman was named a co-conspirator in a federal case against Trump for the attempted insurrection. That same month, Eastman was indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, and surrendered to authorities.
Former Claremont fellow Michael Buschbacher served as counsel to Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark. In December 2020, Clark, then head of the Department of Justice’s civil division, drafted a letter urging top officials in Georgia to dispute the state’s election results over baseless claims of voter fraud. After acting AG Jeffrey Rosen refused to sign the letter, Trump and Clark met to discuss firing Rosen and elevating Clark to serve as acting AG in his place. The plan was ultimately abandoned after Justice Department officials threatened mass resignation in response. For his role in attempts to overturn the election, Clark was the subject of an ethics complaint, a subpoena by the House January 6th Committee, and was identified as one of the unnamed co-conspirators in a federal prosecution against Donald Trump. Buschbacher claimed that a family emergency kept him away from the Justice Department in the weeks following the 2020 election.
Despite Eastman’s highly-publicized role in Trump’s attempted insurrection, Claremont has stood firmly behind him. Claremont’s president and board chair issued a statement in 2021 that painted Eastman as the subject of a malicious disinformation operation, claiming that “a campaign is trying to prevent the Claremont Institute or its scholars from presenting our views.” Claremont president Ryan Williams shared talking points that called testimony about Trump’s behavior on January 6, 2021, a “hoax.” Claremont senior fellow Charles Kesler claimed that those inside Claremont are split between those “who continue to believe that the election was stolen and some who have denied that from the beginning.”
Claremont leaders remain close with Eastman, and The Washington Post wrote that the institute continues to back Eastman “because of long-standing philosophical agreement and enduring friendships” as well as a lack of institutional consequences. Former Claremont president and current board member Brian Kennedy told the Post that Claremont’s relationship with Eastman remains a “point of pride.” Claremont co-founder and board member Christopher Flannery called Eastman a “hero” and asked conservatives to attack the “Stalinist machine” that intends to prosecute him.
Eastman was compensated over $180,000 by Claremont and its related organizations in 2021 and has continued to file amicus briefs before the Supreme Court on behalf of Claremont since the events of January 6th. Claremont Institute chair Thomas Klingenstein hosted a three-part interview with Eastman about his false claims of election fraud without any strong pushback in June 2023. Claremont’s influence has only grown since the events of January 6th, and the Institute’s revenue grew to nearly $10 million in 2021. Eastman was a senior fellow and a board member on Claremont’s website as of September 2023.
The late Claremont Institute fellow Angelo Codevilla was also one of the first mainstream conservatives to paint Ashli Babbitt, a woman who died while storming the Capitol on January 6th, as a martyr. Prior to Codevilla, Ashli Babbitt’s martyrdom was primarily preached by online white supremacists and far-right conspiracists. Within weeks of Codevilla’s essay, Trump was echoing the sentiment.
Michael Anton blamed the Capitol riot on “the ruling class’s decades-long betrayal and despoliation of what would eventually come to be called Red or Deplorable or Flyover America.” He also pushed the false claim that there were legitimate issues with the 2020 election and blamed “one-party oligarchy” for radicalizing Trump supporters concerned about “a country flooded with immigration for more than half a century, padding the votes of the other party, driving down wages, and enriching oligarchs.”
On January 5, 2021, Claremont board member and senior fellow Brian Kennedy tweeted that he had “been on Capitol Hill all day […] We must embrace the spirit of the American Revolution to stop this communist revolution. #HoldTheLine.” On January 7, 2021, Kennedy echoed Eastman’s false claims that the Capitol Riot was the product of left-wing agitators.
Kennedy attended a conference held by a coalition of election conspiracist candidates in October 2021. The coalition included five Republican candidates inspired by QAnon-esque conspiracies who sought to control key positions related to election administration in the swing states of Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Georgia, and California, as well as a potential candidate for governor in Pennsylvania. Alongside Kennedy, the conference was attended by Mike Lindell and Patrick Byrne – both of whom encouraged Trump to use military force to overturn the 2020 election.
Steve Bannon, a former Trump advisor tied to the white supremacy movement and a leader of the right-wing movement to take over the U.S. election apparatus, claimed that Kennedy was “one of the architects” of the Maricopa County, Arizona election audit. The election audit, administered at the instruction of the state’s conservative state legislature and seeking to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, was financed by right-wing conspiratorial groups with connections to QAnon. The audit itself was conducted by the firm Cyber Ninjas, which had “no election or auditing experience” and was “led by a conspiracy theorist who believes the election was rigged.” Cyber Ninja’s audit ultimately found no evidence of mass fraud.
Darren Beattie was a former Claremont Institute fellow who worked as a speechwriter for Donald Trump until he was fired in 2018 after it was revealed he met with white nationalist groups. Beattie frantically emailed a Claremont listserv asking for media contacts and assistance. Charles Johnson, a long-time Claremont affiliate associated with the alt-right and neo-Nazis, came to Beattie’s defense, writing “heaven forbid that some thinkers — like the American founders who favored our country be majority white — think that the U.S. of A should stay majority white!”.
In 2017, Claremont elevated Ryan Williams to the role of president at age 35, and he hired a cohort of younger staff in a broader attempt to influence the New Right. Williams also launched The American Mind, which frequently publishes far-right essays from pseudonymous authors, and began to imitate Trump’s incendiary rhetorical style online. Williams claimed he aimed to ensure Claremont appealed to younger conservative audiences and the New Right. In 2017, the face of the New Right was the alt-right movement, which the anti-hate watchdog Anti-Defamation League called “a repackaging of white supremacy by extremists seeking to mainstream their ideology.”
Williams claimed he was interested in “harnessing some of the energy that he saw among young people who were being drawn to the alt-right.” Former Claremont fellow Nate Hochman claimed that The American Mind was the only publication that was “willing to actually reach into the goo of the fever swamp of young right-wing internet circles” and “parse the completely crazy stuff from the understandable, or verging on legitimate stuff.” Hochman would later be fired from Ron Desantis’s 2024 presidential campaign for secretly making pro-Desantis videos that featured a Nazi symbol. In 2019, Williams publicly complained that Google was blacklisting The American Mind for “warning about the danger to the republic posed by multiculturalism.”
In 2019, Claremont senior fellow Michael Anton was commissioned to write an essay on the alt-right and used the opportunity to platform the work of a pseudonymous internet personality and “leading cultural figure on the fascist right” named “Bronze Age Pervert” (BAP). BAP is a deeply homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic figure who speaks of American cities as wastelands controlled by Jewish and Black people, with The Atlantic noting “the words he uses to denote these groups are considerably less genteel.” BAP encourages his followers to act as crypto-fascists and gain positions of power to vanquish “lower types of mankind” to secure a free world for “superior specimens.” A member of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism claimed that BAP is enmeshed in a larger social movement that aims to spark race wars and fuel fascism. BAP’s thinking was popular amongst young male staffers in the Trump White House and gained popularity throughout the broader far right.
Anton claimed that BAP’s fascist ideas are winning “the spiritual war for the hearts and minds of the disaffected youth on the right [and] conservatism is losing.” Anton urged his readers to see beyond BAP’s hateful language and understand the ideas are no less outlandish than “any number of fanatics whose screeds are taught in elite universities.” Anton’s essay faced pointed criticism, notably for normalizing and platforming BAP’s ideas into the mainstream. Claremont Institute president Ryan Williams dismissed these criticisms as “silly,” claiming that it was imperative that the right find “new and creative” ways to appeal to young right-wingers. Williams continued that Anton’s essay proved that Claremont “[wasn’t] just fusionist Reagan Republicans” but was “open to new ideas.”
In March 2022, Claremont’s The American Mind published an essay by the pseudonymous author “Raw Egg Nationalist” called “The Decline Is Real.” The essay pearl-clutches through 4chan-tinged language lamenting the decline of birth rates in the West and the testosterone levels of Western men. Raw Egg Nationalist accuses “clownworld,” a phrase used by white supremacists to describe the enemies of Western culture, of structuring society to turn men into “low-T” “soyboys,” a common insult on the alt-right. The essay taps into the far-right “great replacement” conspiracy theory by positioning “Western” men as increasingly infertile and unable to stop the “replacement” of the white population The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the “great replacement” theory as a “central tenet” of white supremacist ideology that has inspired mass shootings.
Before his American Mind article, Raw Egg Nationalist had a book published by Antelope Hill Publishing. Antelope Hill is an “openly fascist” publisher that glorifies “Nazi Germany, fascism, antisemitism, and white nationalism.” The publisher jokes about “uncle Hitler” on Twitter and offered a discount on a collection of Hilter’s speeches on his birthday using the promo code “birthday_boy.” Conservative outlet The Bulwark described Raw Egg Nationalist as one of Antelope Hill’s main authors. Raw Egg Nationalist also appeared on a podcast hosted by a Claremont fellow who frequently hosts Claremont alumni. On that podcast, Raw Egg Nationalist said that Black Lives Matter protesters were “hideously ugly, malformed people.”
Claremont received $50,000 from the foundation of far-right shampoo industrialist Charles Haywood in 2020. Haywood praised the Capitol Riot as “pretty awesome” and publicly discussed his desire to become a “warlord” who leads an “armed patronage network” after the collapse of American society. Haywood runs the Society for American Civic Renewal, a secretive, male-only, invitation-only fraternal order that likely serves as the basis for Haywood’s desired paramilitary operation. Claremont gave $26,248 to SACR 2021 and Haywood has appeared on official Claremont podcasts and written for Claremont’s The American Mind.
Political theorist Laura Field and writer at conservative publication The Bulwark said that some of Claremont’s leaders share Haywood’s apocalyptic belief in America’s future. Field said that Claremont’s intellectual circles have discussed secession for years and “believe they need to use whatever they might need, including paramilitaries.”
The late Claremont Institute fellow Angelo Codevilla argued in an essay weeks before the 2016 election that America experienced a “regime change” during the 20th century due to the “ruling class” accepting civil and LGBTQ rights, immigration, and abortion. Codevilla called for a regime change of the right to save the republic. In 2017, Codevilla coined the term “The Cold Civil War” to describe the growing gulf between the “ruling class,” composed of the media and the Democratic party, and the “majority of American people and their way of life.” Codevilla compared investigations into Trump’s potential use of Russian interference in the 2016 election and opposition to Trump’s draconian anti-immigrant policies to resistance by Southern states to anti-slavery policy. Codevilla escalated his rhetoric shortly before his death, calling on right-wingers to form “self-defense groups” to give police “lively reasons to fear you” shortly before the 2020 election. His essay came at a time when armed right-wing militias were showing up to election sites to act as unofficial poll watchers.
Since President Joe Biden assumed office, Claremont leaders have pushed Codevilla’s belief that America is heading towards a violent civil war between the political left and right. Claremont’s board chair repeated the “Cold Civil War” framing and demanded that Republicans must “fight as if the choice were between liberty and death.” Prominent Claremont fellow Michael Anton appeared on Fox News and claimed that there was a cultural and economic “war between the states.” Anton also appeared on a podcast with a monarchist who argued that America needed a “Caesar” to seize power — a claim that observers believed Anton objected to because it was unrealistic rather than tyrannical. The executive director of Claremont’s Center for the American Way of Life, Arthur Milikh, argued that America is in the midst of “a regime-level struggle” between “the American way of life” and “identity politics.” Claremont president Ryan Williams told The Atlantic that “the Constitution is really only fit for a Christian people,” and tensions between the Christian right and the non-Christian left could lead to violence. Williams stated a civil war between the left and right should be avoided at “almost” all costs.
The American Mind published an essay by former Claremont research director and Hillsdale College visiting research scholar Glenn Ellmers in September 2021 titled “‘Conservatism’ is No Longer Enough.” After disparaging immigrants who, in Ellmers’ words, “will never assimilate,” the essay claimed that Biden voters are “non-American Americans” who support “a party that stands for mob violence, ruthless censorship, and racial grievances” that has deeply corrupted the norms and standards of America. Ellmers said he believes that ‘conservatism’ is not enough, because there is nothing to conserve, and calls for a “counter-revolution” that refocuses Trumpism’s destructive tendencies to “refound” the nation. The essay also encourages its readers to undertake weightlifting because, as “one of [Ellmers’] favorite weightlifting coaches likes to say, ‘Strong people are harder to kill, and more useful generally.’”
Writer John Ganz called the essay fascist, claiming that Ellmers lays out a “paradoxical fusion of, and alternation between, elitism and populism” that “is a fixture of fascist politics.” Vox argued that the tone of Ellmers’ essay is in line with the tradition of virulent segregationist 20th-century leaders such as George Wallace. Ellmers was invited on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to discuss his article.
Claremont has positioned itself as a leading ‘anti-woke’ crusader. The term “woke” has become a right-wing pejorative for efforts to advance social justice. Black political columnist Perry Bacon Jr. suggested anti-woke posturing is symptomatic of a larger right-wing response to Black activism and changing cultural norms that are rooted in white backlash and resentment. Others have suggested that the pejorative use of woke is similar to the use of the term politically correct, which Claremont attacked in previous decades for causing “moral degeneracy.” Claremont’s leaders compared political correctness to Stalinism and today positions itself in a “war” against “multiculturalism” and “woke communism.”
Harry Jaffa, Claremont’s intellectual father and a dominant voice at the institute until his death, was deeply homophobic and regularly referred to gay people as “sodomites.” He said that through AIDS, “God and nature have exacted terrible retribution.” Jaffa also wrote an extreme essay where he argued, through an imagined dialogue between serial killer Ted Bundy and one of his victims, that if homosexuality is permitted, then Bundy must be allowed to rape and murder.
Jaffa’s strong anti-LGBTQ streak extended into activism. He publicly rebuked a gay and lesbian awareness day at Claremont McKenna College and the Claremont Graduate School. In 1998, the Claremont Institute was condemned by civil rights advocates for co-sponsoring a conference that espoused the view that it was possible to ‘cure’ homosexuality. Jaffa responded to the criticism from civil rights groups about the conference, saying that “to treat a member of the same sex as if it were a member of the opposite sex is as much a violation of nature as slavery or genocide.”
In 1983, Claremont Scholar Ken Masugi, an aide to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas whom the justice considers a major influence on his ideology, wrote a New York Times letter to the editor arguing against reparations for victims of Japanese internment camps during World War II. The letter more broadly argued against “race-conscious affirmative action programs,” claiming that the programs “[stigmatize] those [they] would claim to aid.” In 1996, Claremont provided the policy and ideological framework for Proposition 209, which effectively ended affirmative action in public education, employment, or contracting in the state of California.
Claremont laments equity programs such as affirmative action, claiming that they defy the Constitution and lead to a society “where the formerly oppressed are now given privileges and power and the former oppressors are brought low.” Fellows at Claremont’s controversial sheriff fellowship program praised it for disputing the “myth of systematic racism.” In an interview with The Atlantic, Claremont president Ryan Williams claimed that “that a lot more Blacks are in prison because they commit violent crimes at a much higher rate.”
Senior Claremont fellow Charles Kesler and Claremont vice chairman Larry Arnn were named to former President Trump’s 1776 Commission, which aimed to reverse attempts to encourage American schools to more accurately acknowledge the legacies of slavery and systematic racism.
In 1993, Claremont’s policy director, Lance Izumi, wrote in support of anti-immigration policies that would ban undocumented immigrants from receiving any form of public service, including public schooling and access to healthcare. Izumi claimed that reluctance to support these policies was due to “political correctness.” In 1994, California voters voted on a ballot proposition that would put Izumi’s proposed policies into practice in the form of Prop. 187. Claremont publicly supported Prop 187 but it was overturned by a federal judge — a fact Claremont still laments.
Notable Claremont influencers John Eastman and Michael Anton are longtime opponents of birthright citizenship, believing it is not guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. Eastman would later argue that Kamala Harris is not eligible to serve as Vice President, channeling a conspiracy that her parents were undocumented immigrants when she was born. In 2019, The Claremont Review Of Books published an essay that argued immigration restrictions were necessary to combat “adversarial multiculturalism,” which would lead to a racially “balkanized America.”
During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, Claremont released a statement authored by its president and its board chair that called BLM a “revolutionary and totalitarian movement” bent on “the destruction of the American way of life.” In another statement, Claremont called the protests a “nationwide riot” that were the “handiwork of the elite.”
In 2023, Claremont published a Newsweek op-ed that peddled the false claim that the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests caused widespread violence and destruction. The Newsweek piece also linked to a recently launched Claremont database that purported to show nearly $82.9 billion dollars corporations gave to “the Black Lives Matter movement and related causes.” Claremont’s estimate has since increased to nearly $100 billion. Investigations by The Daily Beast, FactCheck.org, and Popular Information found that Claremont stretched the definition of a “related cause,” including support to wildfire relief and hospice care, to exaggerate their purported total. Factcheck.org found that Black Lives Matter groups accounted for about 2 percent of all donations included in Claremont’s database.
In 2021, Claremont worked with the Idaho Freedom Foundation to create reports arguing that “social-justice” ideology had infiltrated the state’s universities. In response, the Idaho State legislature cut $2.5 million for programming at public universities and banned institutions of public education from directing “students to personally affirm, adopt or adhere” to critical race theory.
The anti-critical race theory (CRT) movement was constructed by right-wing activist Christopher Rufo. Anti-CRT panics are used to drum up attacks on anti-racism efforts and distort public school curriculums to downplay the roles of slavery and racism in public school curriculums. Rufo is a Claremont fellow.
Rufo and Claremont closely collaborated on efforts to fight critical race theory and diversity initiatives in Florida. Rufo and others involved with the Claremont Institute, are intimately involved in the policymaking of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis gave the keynote address at Claremont’s fall 2021 awards ceremony and he shares the Institute’s opposition to “wokeism.” Claremont fellow David Reaboi claimed he is advising DeSantis on national security issues. Reaboi is a former lobbyist for the government of Hungary, which is controlled by a far-right nationalist autocrat. When Claremont launched a new Florida-based center in 2023, DeSantis met with its leadership.
Claremont tapped fellow Scott Yenor to head up its new Florida outpost. Yenor, who is infamous for characterizing women with professional aspirations as “medicated, meddlesome, and quarrelsome” and urging women to pursue “feminine goals,” was hired by the Institute to serve as its senior director of state coalitions at its new center in Florida. Yenor’s Florida outpost released a report titled “Florida Universities: From Woke to Professionalism” in 2023. The report calls on Florida universities to dismantle all DEI offices, make collecting data on race and sex at universities illegal, repeal programs designed to increase minority and female representation and defund disciplines that may promote DEI, such as education and law. The report also urges Florida’s government to attack the “reigning national civil rights regime.” Yenor urges Florida to attack the “civil rights regime” by conducting civil rights investigations into academic programs where women outnumber men and to ban curriculums or programs that are “anti-male.”
DeSantis also recruited Claremont to aid in his takeover of the New College of Florida, a progressive public college with a prominent LGBTQ community. DeSantis claimed that the school was indoctrinating its students and appointed six new trustees of NCF’s board — including Claremont influencers Charles Kesler and Rufo — who began to purge the university of leading officials. DeSantis claimed he wanted to turn NCF into a “Hillsdale [College] of the south,” a far-right college closely connected to Claremont.
With support from Claremont, the DeSantis administration has attacked private businesses for hosting drag queens, banned public schools from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation, and passed a law that prohibits schools and companies from making students or employees feel “white or male guilt.” According to The Nation, Claremont’s close collaboration with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is making the state a template for “a militant Republican state government providing a ‘blueprint’ for rolling back civil rights across the country.”
Since the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Claremont’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence has filed numerous amicus briefs in key Supreme Court cases, nearly all of them co-authored by John Eastman. Notable cases in which Claremont filed a brief include:
Claremont’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence has also filed amicus briefs in significant cases set to be decided by the Supreme Court in its October 2023 term, including Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo. Loper threatens to undermine the administrative state, or the regulatory authority of federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Federal Communication Commission (FCC), requiring all regulatory interpretations to pass through courts first. This would greatly empower the judicial branch and weaken federal regulatory authority, a mission of the modern conservative movement.
Claremont is a coalition member of Project 2025, a group of right-wing groups working to build a “conservative LinkedIn” of trained future presidential appointees who subscribe to a conservative policy playbook. The coalition was organized by the Heritage Foundation and the Center For Renewing America.
The project would go beyond dismantling usual targets for the right, such as the EPA and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and would attempt to radically alter and reorganize key agencies such as the Department of Justice, the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the State Department. The project is moving at an “unprecedented scale” to vet potential personnel for a new administration, with plans to pass an executive order that could result in the firing of tens of thousands of formally nonpartisan federal workers. The coalition behind the project is also preparing for legal challenges and defenses, planning to take advantage of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Claremont board chair Thomas Klingenstein is one of the main donors to the Institute, giving the organization over $19 million since 2005. Only in recent years has Claremont received more funding from outside sources other than Klingenstein.
Since the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Claremont has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from leading right-wing funders, including the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Thomas W Smith Foundation, DonorsTrust, and the Bradley Foundation. Claremont also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from prominent donor-advised funds tied to mainstream financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley, Schwab, Fidelity, and Vanguard. The largest injection of funding came from Claremont’s board chair, Thomas Klingenstein.
Other notable donors include anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, the foundation of California-based ad executive and right-wing donor Jack Roth, and the foundation of Andrew Conru, dating website magnate.
|Thomas D Klingenstein Fund||$2,976,569||2021|
|Sarah Scaife Foundation||$480,000||2021|
|The Jack Roth Charitable Foundation||$400,000||2022|
|The Jack Roth Charitable Foundation||$250,000||2021|
|Dick And Betsy DeVos Foundation||$240,000 (with $200,000 specifically earmarked for Claremont’s Sheriff program.||2021|
|Diana Davis Spencer Foundation||$200,000||2021|
|Searle Freedom Trust||$180,000||2021|
|Thomas W Smith Foundation||$150,000||2021|
|The Conru Foundation||$110,000||2021|
|The Constitutional Defense Fund||$105,000||2021|
|Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust Inc||$100,000||2021|
|Fidelity Charitable Fund||$90,945||2021|
|Philip M Mckenna Foundation Inc||$80,000||2022|
|Philip M Mckenna Foundation Inc||$80,000||2021|
|The Deramus Foundation Inc||$35,000||2021|
|B K Simon Charitable Foundation||$30,000||2021|
|Charles And Marie Robertson Foundation||$30,000||2021|
|The Randolph Foundation||$26,000||2021|
|Adolph Coors Foundation||$25,000||2021|
|The Lewis Family Charitable Foundation||$25,000||2021|
|Alliance Defending Freedom||$23,490||2021|
|JW And Ida M Jameson Foundation||$20,000||2021|
|National Christian Charitable Foundation Inc||$19,250||2021|
|Stanley M Truhlsen Family Foundation Inc||$15,000||2022|
|Lon V Smith Foundation||$15,000||2021|
|The Kling Family Foundation||$15,000||2021|
|The Tom And Mayumi Adams Family||$15,000||2021|
|Bradley Impact Fund||$13,500||2021|
|Greater Houston Community Foundation||$11,500||2021|
|The Julia Stearns Dockweiler Charitable||$10,000||2022|
|Andrea Waitt Carlton Family Foundation||$10,000||2021|
|Grace Jones Richardson Testamentary||$10,000||2021|
|Ja Daley III Foundation||$10,000||2021|
|John & Barbara Samuelson Foundation Inc||$10,000||2021|
|Schiffer Family Foundation Inc||$10,000||2021|
|Stanley M Truhlsen Family Foundation Inc||$10,000||2021|
|Warren & Katharine Schlinger Foundation||$10,000||2021|
|George E Coleman Jr Foundation||$7,000||2021|
|Fred A Lennon Charitable Trust||$5,000||2021|
|Hanson Family Foundation||$5,000||2021|
|The Frank E Witt Foundation Inc||$5,000||2021|
|The Julia Stearns Dockweiler Charitable||$5,000||2021|
|Frankel Family Charitable Trust||$4,000||2021|
|The Schulman Foundation Inc||$3,000||2022|
|The Robertson-Finley Foundation||$3,000||2022|
|The Schulman Foundation Inc||$3,000||2021|
|The William C And Cindy L Scott||$3,000||2021|
|The Robertson-Finley Foundation||$2,800||2021|
|Kickapoo Springs Foundation||$2,500||2021|
|The Legett Foundation||$2,500||2021|
|The Mark E And Mary A Davis Foundation||$2,000||2021|
|John P & Kathryn G Evans Foundation||$1,200||2021|
Notable alumni of various Claremont fellowship programs include:
In 2021, Claremont launched a fellowship program for sheriffs. Out of the eight inaugural fellows, six had ties to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a recognized anti-government extremist group. The CSPOA endorses the idea that law enforcement professionals should only enforce laws according to their personal interpretation of the Constitution. Claremont’s coursework for the fellowship program included training on “the Roots of Radical Leftist Ideology” and generally focused on the “myth of systematic racism,” according to one participant. Three of the sheriffs selected openly denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Claremont chose not to share the names of its 2022 cohort of sheriff fellows. Only one, Dar Leaf of Barry County, Michigan, who is a board member of CPSOA, publicly announced his fellowship. Leaf appeared on stage with militia members at an anti-mask rally in 2020, one of whom was later prosecuted for organizing a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan. Leaf also claimed the 2020 election was stolen and is the subject of a state investigation after he sent a sheriff to pressure local election officials to turn over voting machines for forensic examination. In his responses to Claremont’s application questionnaire, Leaf wrote that “the Civil Rights Act is racist” and engaged in New World Order conspiracy theories. The 2022 Claremont sheriff fellowship reading list revised its curriculum, moving its reading list away from philosophy and political theory to instead focus on far-right stances on immigration and gun control.
Hillsdale College is a small, far-right college that has become a key player in right-wing culture wars and the fight against “progressive” and “leftist academics.” Claremont and Hillsdale are closely linked. Claremont Vice Chairman Larry Arnn used connections he gained at Claremont with megadonors such as the DeVoses and the Kochs to greatly expand Hillsdale’s power and influence. As president, he instilled a distinct brand of right-wing Christianity at Hillsdale that aims to protect “Western civilization,” a term often invoked by the far right as a coded term for “white culture.” Claremont president Ryan Williams was educated at Hillsdale under Arnn’s tenure.
Justice Clarence Thomas was greatly influenced by Claremont Institute scholars and Harry Jaffa’s thinking. When Thomas served as the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he hired two Claremont Institute scholars, Ken Masgui and John Marini, as aides. Thomas has cited Masugi and Marini as his ideological tutors and said that Claremont “played a significant role in [his] own education.” Thomas is known to cite Jaffa’s work in his juridical thinking, particularly Jaffa’s fixation on “natural law” doctrine. Thomas specifically cited a 1988 Jaffa article that suggested that the Griswold decision that legalized birth control was unconstitutional under “natural law” doctrine.
Prominent Claremont influencer John Eastman clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and is close friends with Thomas and his wife, Ginni. While both Eastman and Ginni Thomas were separately advocating to overturn the 2020 election, Ginni Thomas reached out to Eastman and asked him to speak to a right-wing activist group about attempts to dispute the election results. While Eastman was pursuing legal means to overturn the election, he told Trump’s lawyers that he was aware of a “heated fight” among the Supreme Court justices about whether to hear arguments in an important Wisconsin case relating to the election results.