Turning Point USA, a nonprofit founded in 2012 by then-19-year-old Charlie Kirk, has exploded in the Trump era. With a stated goal of training “students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government” but a practical goal of antagonizing as many of those students’ liberal peers as possible, the group is uniquely poised to capitalize on the fresh belligerence of a new generation of young Republicans.
Such as the group’s former national field director, Crystal Clanton, who once texted a fellow Turning Point employee: “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.”
Or the woman who effectively replaced her, 22-year-old Shialee Grooman, who tweeted in 2013, “All I get is nigger dick.”
As its star has risen, Turning Point has found itself constantly beset with its employees’ racist comments. Some people get fired over them. Some simply delete their old tweets — whether to hide them from the public or their own organization, it’s not clear.
There are real stakes now for an organization that styles itself as a grassroots opposition to the supposed monolithic liberalism of college campuses. Turning Point has closely aligned itself with the Trump administration. Kirk interviewed the president at last month’s White House youth forum, while Donald Trump Jr. attended Kirk’s 24th birthday celebration, along with former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka.
In December, Jane Mayer of the New Yorker reported that the group engaged in the sort of political activity barred by campaign finance laws governing charitable organizations. Mayer also unearthed the “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE” text from Clanton. Kirk told Mayer that the group “took decisive action” within 72 hours of being told about the texts; presumably he meant firing Clanton, who left the company shortly thereafter. According to someone with knowledge of the situation, Kirk then replaced Clanton with two people: Grooman, installed as field operations manager, and Troy Meeker, 24, who became leadership operations director.
Grooman, it turns out, has plenty of baggage of her own.
Grooman has since deleted her Twitter account entirely. Screenshots of the tweets, which were live as of early April, were given to HuffPost by someone who asked to be identified as an “activist.” Vestiges of Grooman’s Twitter activity can still be found in the remaining halves of the conversations shown in the screenshots. (Grooman went by @FreezingArizona on Twitter before changing her username to @shiiialee.)
At the time of publication, Grooman’s LinkedIn profile still listed Turning Point as her current employer, but in a statement to HuffPost, Kirk referred to her as a “former employee”:
This is the only question we will be issuing a statement on and only question addressing:
These are unconfirmed tweets, alleged to be written by a former employee of Turning Point USA which predates her employment with our organization.
According to a second source who also asked to remain anonymous, the tweets were concerning enough to Turning Point USA that they occasioned a memo, sent April 12.
According to the person who provided the memo, Grooman has still been answering Turning Point-related calls and emails, after the release of the April 12 memo. HuffPost followed up with Kirk to clarify when, exactly, Grooman left and under what circumstances; we’ll update if we hear back. Grooman has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Meeker, the other half of the duo who replaced Clanton, has had to delete at least one tweet of his own. According to his LinkedIn profile, he remains employed by Turning Point.
Meanwhile, Turning Point’s Midwest regional manager, Timon Prax, was allegedly forced to leave about a month ago. According to our activist source, it was over his use of bigoted language in tweets and texts.
Prax, whose Twitter account has been suspended, was worse in text messages, according to the source. “He used the n-word with the hard R nonstop, made fun of black people and referred to them as slaves and made fun of the mentally disabled,” said the source, who shared several screenshots with HuffPost on the condition that we not publish them.
Prax has since publicly posted on his Facebook that he’s accepted a job as social media director at the Rabine Group. The Rabine Group is owned by Gary Rabine, a current member of Turning Point’s advisory council.
Turning Point is a little more comfortable with other kinds of racial provocation. The group has been in the spotlight recently thanks to Kanye West’s praise on Twitter of Candace Owens, the organization’s director of urban engagement and one of its few black employees.
Kanye was likely responding to a recent video of Owens that had gone viral in which she says: “There is an ideological civil war happening: Black people that are focused on their past and shouting about slavery and black people that are focused on their futures, OK? That’s really what it comes down to, OK? .... And it’s embarrassing that you utilize their history, you utilize their history and you come in here with more emotion than they ever had when they were living through it. You’re not living through anything right now. You’re overly privileged Americans.”
Like Owens, many of Turning Point’s members often lean on the refrain that racism as liberals understand it simply doesn’t exist in the modern world. If only its own employees would stop proving them wrong.
Are you a current or former Turning Point USA employee with something to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.