Neil Gorsuch Didn’t Start Fascism Club

Q: Did Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch start a fascism club in high school?

A: No. Gorsuch’s senior yearbook jokingly says that he was the founder and president of the “Fascism Forever Club” at Georgetown Preparatory School.

 

FULL QUESTION

Was Neil Gorsuch, the supreme court nominee, the president of a “Fascism Forever Club” in high school?

FULL ANSWER

Despite what his 1985 yearbook says, Judge Neil Gorsuch did not start a “Fascism Forever Club” at Georgetown Preparatory School. As a joke, the Supreme Court nominee wrote that he founded the nonexistent club, according to his former student government adviser.

“The club never existed,”said Stephen Ochs, a history teacher who also advised Gorsuch as a member of the student government. Ochs told us that Gorsuch listed the club in his yearbook profile as “an inside joke” between himself and some of his liberal classmates.

Dozens of readers have asked us if Gorsuch, the federal appellate judge whom President Donald Trump nominated to the Supreme Court on Jan. 31, was indeed the leader of a fascist student group at the Jesuit high school in Bethesda, Maryland. He wasn’t.

In an email to FactCheck.org, Patrick Coyle, the school’s marketing and communications director, wrote that “no such club ever existed on Georgetown Prep’s campus.”

Yet in an “exclusive,” the U.K.’s DailyMail.com reported on Feb. 1 that “Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch founded and led a student group called the ‘Fascism Forever Club’ at his elite high school.” The story was based on an entry in the yearbook in which Gorsuch listed “Fascism Forever Club (Founder and President)” among his high school activities.

But the club mention was not meant to be taken seriously, as Michael O’Loughlin reported for America, a Jesuit magazine, a day after the DailyMail.com story appeared online.

America, Feb. 2: Political differences aside, Mr. Gorsuch was popular and respected, excelling at debate and being elected student body president.

When it came time to write his senior biography for the yearbook, he would make light of the divide between his conservative political beliefs and those of the more liberal faculty and students.

He wrote that he founded and led the “Fascism Forever Club,” though those with knowledge of the school back in the 1980s say there was no such club. The mention of it in the yearbook was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to poke fun at liberal peers who teased him about his fierce conservatism.

It was “a total joke,” said Steve Ochs, a history teacher at Georgetown Prep who was the student government advisor during Mr. Gorsuch’s junior and senior years at the Bethesda, Md., school.

“There was no club at a Jesuit school about young fascists,” he told America. “The students would create fictitious clubs; they would have fictitious activities. They were all inside jokes on their senior pages.”

We confirmed what Ochs told the magazine when we interviewed him by phone.

Ochs recalled that some classmates playfully called Gorsuch, whose mother worked in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, a “conservative fascist.” That’s what motivated him to put it in the yearbook, Ochs explained. He said that it was common at the time for students to make up clubs and activities for their senior pages.

The yearbook, Ochs said, also included an introductory message before the section for seniors that made another reference to the nonexistent fascism club. It reads, in part: “In political circles, our tireless President Gorsuch’s ‘Fascism Forever’ forum happily jerked its knees against the increasingly ‘left-wing’ tendencies of the faculty.”

That, too, was written in “mock seriousness” on behalf of the senior class, Ochs said.

Sources

Ochs, Stephen. Interview with FactCheck.org. 3 Feb 2017.

Coyle, Patrick. Email interview with FactCheck.org. 3 Feb 2017.

O’Loughlin, Michael. “No, Neil Gorsuch did not start a ‘Fascism Forever’ club at his Jesuit high school.” America. 2 Feb 2017.

Goodman, Alana. “EXCLUSIVE: Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch founded and led club called ‘Fascism Forever’ against liberal faculty at his elite all-boys DC prep school.” DailyMail.com. 1 Feb 2017.

FactCheck.org

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