Professor speaks out about confronting alt-right leader Richard Spencer at local gym

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Professor speaks out about confronting alt-right leader Richard Spencer at local gym
Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University, has gotten a barrage of emails and phone calls since confronting Richard Spencer at an Alexandria gym (Courtesy Photo)
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By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer’s ousting from a gym in Old Town quickly became a national story this week, making headlines in the Washington Post, Newsweek, Buzzfeed and Jezebel.

As previously reported, the incident itself started when C. Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University, confronted Spencer on May 17 at Sport and Health’s Old Town location at 209 Madison St. Fair, who has been a member of the gym for the past two years, said she decided to confront Spencer after having conversations with trainers at the gym.

“I was pretty appalled. This dude was in our gym and as a female, I find his rhetoric pretty repugnant,” Fair told the Alexandria Times. “The people that run that gym are people of color, they’re women and they’re non-Christians. I was furious.”

The rest of the confrontation is detailed on Fair’s Tumblr page. Fair asked about Spencer’s identity, which he denied. Fair then brought up past white nationalist statements attributed to Spencer and loudly identified him as a “neo-Nazi,” which Spencer responded to by requesting help from a gym employee.

Fair said the altercation would have ended there if it weren’t for a fellow gym member intervening. She said the gym member asked why she was confronting Spencer and threatened to call the police.

At that point, gym manager Marty Thomas arrived on the scene. Fair, who said she and Thomas had previously sparred over her wearing a “F*** Trump” hat, said Thomas told her she was creating a hostile environment, to which she responded that he was creating a hostile workplace. At that point, Thomas asked Fair to exit to the lower level of the gym, where Fair told him she wouldn’t let go of the issue. Fair and her husband then left the gym.

It wasn’t until Friday that the issue blew up. The gym sent Spencer a letter that terminated his membership and asked to meet with Fair privately. Fair said the gym told her to not confront fellow members, a request she rebuffed.

“It is not my belief that this guy is a Nazi from 9 to 5,” Fair said. “I’m not going to pretend that what he does in his day job doesn’t affect all of us.”

Fair said her membership hasn’t been terminated. Since Spencer received a letter informing him of his termination, he has responded with a post on his website, AltRight.com, and a video on his YouTube account titled

“Christine Fair’s Austic (sic) screeching.” He also said he is appealing the gym’s decision. In the video, he says he denied his identity because he was at a gym and didn’t want to get into a political discussion.

“It’s not because I’m a coward, it’s because I have no interest whatsoever in getting into political discussion with these kinds of people at the gym. I go to the gym to workout. I go to the gym to expend some energy, to stay in shape, all those kinds of things,” Spencer said in the response.

Fair said, since Spencer’s postings and the barrage of media attention, she’s been receiving nearly constant calls and emails from Spencer’s followers and fans. She said several of Spencer’s followers have also incited people to go to her home.

“This reflects a national network who have devoted considerable resources to harassing people,” Fair said.

The altercation between Spencer and Fair comes just a few months after Spencer moved the headquarters for his website, AltRight.com, to 1001 King St. in Old Town. Two months before Spencer moved in, city council released a statement indirectly condemning positions taken by those in the alt-right movement.

“We proclaim that we remain committed to diversity and to fostering an atmosphere of inclusiveness that respects the dignity and worth of every person without regard to race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, status, marital status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or familial status, and we declare that we denounce racial bias, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant activity, and harmful bias and discrimination in all forms,” a portion of the city’s statement read.

The city did not have a statement regarding the Spencer incident. Mayor Allison
Silberberg said, though she couldn’t comment about the actions of the business itself, she stood behind the statement.

“I think our statement on inclusiveness that I’ve read at multiple events speaks for itself,” Silberberg said.

Gym manager Marty Thomas and Sport & Health employees did not respond to requests for comment.

Fair, for her part, said she will continue to confront Spencer and those who espouse similar beliefs.

“I’ve made my choice to make the life of this Nazi as miserable as possible. Now, it’s time for people to make their choice,” Fair said. “I’m not going to be worrying, ten years from now, that I didn’t make the right choice. I’m not going to lament. They can ask themselves how they’ll feel in 10 years.”

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