Kanye West’s Trump-supporting muse Candace Owens continued to send shockwaves across the Twitterverse on Friday, attacking former President Barack Obama and challenging John Legend to a public debate.
“Can someone please tell @johnlegend that I openly challenge him to a debate regarding his stance that Trump’s policies have harmed people of color but Obama’s policies didn’t?” Owens tweeted. “He has me blocked since his unstable wife attacked me, but I’d love to publicly debate him.”
Despite her name making national headlines recently, Connecticut NAACP president Scot X. Esdaile hadn’t heard the name Candace Owens for more than a decade prior to this week. Esdaile said he’s having a hard time believing that the woman his organization helped when she was the victim of an alleged hate crime is now speaking out against progressives who advocate for people of color.
“We’re very saddened and disappointed in her,” Esdaile said in a phone interview with Mic. “It seems to me that she’s now trying to play to a different type of demographic.”
It was Esdaile and the NAACP who aided Owens in 2007, when she was a 17-year-old high school student in her hometown of Stamford, Connecticut. In February of that year, a group of white boys from her school reportedly left voicemails on her cell phone in which they used racial slurs and threatened to kill her.
“They started off by telling me that they were going to kill me ‘just because’ I was black,” Owens wrote in an open letter about the incident in 2016. “They warned me that if they found me at home, they were going to unload a bullet into the back of my head. They cited other ‘niggers’ who had died before me, like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. They threatened to ‘tar and feather’ my family.”
One of Owens’ alleged harassers was the son of then-Stamford mayor Daniel Malloy, Connecticut’s current governor. Ultimately, with the help of the NAACP, Owens’ father settled a lawsuit against Stamford Public Schools for $37,500 in 2008.
All of this makes it ironic that Owens would now criticize Black Lives Matter supporters for having a “victim mentality.”
“What you’re seeing happening is victim mentality vs. victor mentality,” Owens said during a recent speech at UCLA that was interrupted by Black Lives Matter supporters. “Victim mentality is not cool. You’re not living through anything right now. You’re overly privileged Americans.”
Esdaile said Owens’ about-face on progressive advocacy is hypocritical.
“It’s the same type of thing Clarence Thomas did,” he said, referring to the black Supreme Court justice who critics say benefited from affirmative action when he attended Yale University before ruling against affirmative action cases as a judge. “[Thomas] reaped all the benefits of affirmative action and then tried to roll over on it. It’s that kind of mentality and disrespect.”
He’s not the only one criticizing Owens’ ideological shift.
Tree of Logic, a black Trump supporter, former police officer and entrepreneur that became a conservative YouTuber in 2016, is also calling out Owens’ conservative views. Tree, who said she never uses her real name to protect herself from criminals she’s locked up, has been attacking Owens since she started her own conservative YouTube channel and adopted the alt-right-affiliated nickname Red Pill Black, a nod to the The Matrix‘s “take the red pill” concept popularized by the alt-right during President Donald Trump’s White House run.
Tree said she was shocked when she learned that Kanye tweeted his support for Owens.
“Oh my God! She’s such a phony!” Tree said of Owens while laughing over the phone Thursday. “I can’t believe people are falling for this!”
Tree, and other conservative YouTube vloggers known for spouting offensive rhetoric on social media, criticized Owens in 2016 for creating what they called a doxxing website called Social Autopsy. That same year, Owens told the Stamford Advocate her own experiences with bullying inspired her to launch the site, which allowed users to screenshot offensive social media posts and submit them to form a profile on alleged trolls.
“I created a searchable database of people who spew hate online,” she wrote. “I hope it will make people think twice before they exercise their First Amendment rights online as a means to hurt others.”
After receiving complaints, Kickstarter eventually suspended funding for Social Autopsy on April 14, 2016, for violating the crowdfunding site’s terms of service. It was taken down in October 2017, according to a YouTube vlogger who followed the story.
In September 2017, Owens told Dave Rubin, host of Rubin Report, that having her website allegedly attacked by video game developer Zoe Quinn was the “red pill moment” that made her a conservative. Owens said she believes Quinn, who was targeted in the Gamergate controversy in 2014, is the one who complained to Kickstarter about Owens’ troll-tracing site and got the funding page shut down.
She also said she believes Quinn was lying about being trolled by Trump supporters, and that Quinn wanted to destroy Social Autopsy because she feared it was going to expose the truth. There isn’t any evidence that this is true. Quinn did not respond to Mic’s request via Twitter for comment on this story, but the harassment she endured during Gamergate has been well documented.
Owens was later recruited and hired by Charlie Kirk, founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, a right-wing group that brings conservative personalities to speak at college campuses. Then, Owens created a YouTube channel and started calling herself Red Pill Black. She stopped going by that name, however, after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
She also told Rubin that she hates the NAACP, calling it a “trash group” that “extort[s] black people’s emotions for pay.” Esdaile, the NAACP leader, called Owens’ comments “blasphemous.”
“She’s the only one who got financial gain out of it,” he said, referring to the settlement Owens’ family received. “Her family reached out to the NAACP for help. She was saying that she was scared. She feared for her life, and we made sure all the safety protocols were in place. We were just trying to make sure she was safe getting back into school and that the police department was aware of all the different issues that were going on in reference to her complaint. So how did the NAACP exploit her?”