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Wife of US white supremacist Richard Spencer alleges physical abuse in divorce filings

  • The far-right leader allegedly told his wife: ‘The only language women understand is violence’
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 2:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 8:02pm

The wife of American white nationalist Richard Spencer has accused him of emotional and physical abuse, including choking her, dragging her by her hair and attempting to punch her while she was pregnant, according to divorce filings.

“One of [Spencer’s] favourite statements to me is: ‘The only language women understand is violence’,” Spencer’s wife Nina Koupriianova alleged in divorce filings in the Flathead county district court in Montana.

She claimed he called her “genetically defective” and a “parasite”, and that he verbally abused her in front of their young daughter.

“I’m famous and you are not! I’m important and you are not!” the white nationalist leader would sometimes tell her when he was angry, she claimed in the divorce filings.

The allegations in the divorce filings were first reported by Buzzfeed News after multiple attempts by Spencer to keep them under seal.

Spencer called his wife’s allegations of abuse “a wild mischaracterisation of who I am”, and said he would not comment on her specific allegations.

“I’m not going to be engaging with specifics,” he told The Guardian.

Spencer rose to prominence during Trump’s presidential campaign as a well-dressed, media-savvy white nationalist eager to explain to journalists why Trump’s presidential campaign was a political step forward for American neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan.

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He became internationally famous after shouting “Hail Trump! Hail our people!” and being greeted with Nazi salutes at a white nationalist event in November 2016, soon after Trump was elected president.

In 2017, he was one of the most prominent participants in the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, which included violent clashes in the streets, attacks on black Charlottesville residents, and a car attack on a crowd of counterprotesters that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead.

Spencer and Koupriianova married in 2010 and have been living separately since July 2017, according to the filings. They have two young children.

In the divorce filings, his wife argued that Spencer’s abusive behaviour, drinking and white nationalist political activism all put their children at risk.

“Most if not all of [Spencer’s] public speaking events end in violence,” his wife noted.

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Koupriianova, who has her own ties to the Russian far-right, has previously defended Spencer and his views.

In December 2016, the month after the “Hail Trump!” event, Spencer’s prominence as a racist advocate had sparked outrage in Whitefish, Montana, where Spencer and his family sometimes lived.

Koupriianova wrote an op-ed in a local newspaper suggesting that her husband had been the subject of a “witch hunt” and claiming that Spencer “promotes positive identity for peoples of European descent around the world”.

Spencer had been “misrepresented” by the “establishment media”, she wrote in 2016, in a plea for “free speech” and “being respectful” to differing views.

In divorce filings, she suggested that Spencer, a believer in “traditional marriage” and “traditional” gender roles, had sometimes failed to provide for his family and care for her and their children, as well as engaging in physical violence and verbally abusing her in front of their children.

Last year, after she returned from hospital after the birth of their second child, Spencer left her alone without any help to care for the newborn and their toddler daughter, his wife alleged.

During their marriage, the white nationalist leader sometimes told her to use her own savings to pay for groceries, saying that his money was “for the cause”, she alleged.

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He also regularly failed to pay water, internet, electricity and mobile phone bills and failed to make health care payments, causing their health insurance to lapse three times, including once soon before the birth of their second child.

In 2014, when she was pregnant with their first child, he held her down with his body weight and grabbed her by the neck and the jaw, leaving bruises, she alleged.

In 2017, when she was nine months pregnant, he attempted to punch her in the face, she claimed.

After he was punched in the face in Washington DC on the day of Trump’s inauguration in 2016, Spencer left a loaded .38 pistol on the table in their bedroom in Montana, where it was easily accessible to their then two-year-old daughter, Koupriianova alleged.

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When his wife confronted him about the risk to their child, “he did not seem to adequately appreciate the danger”, she claimed.

She claimed he repeatedly told her to kill herself and asked if her parents would attend her funeral. Much of the abuse happened in front of their children, she alleged.

In the filings, she describes their three-year-old daughter as trying to intervene when Spencer berated her mother, including putting herself between her parents and trying to distract her father or ask him to stop, and said the little girl was suffering from “sleeplessness, nightmares and anxiety” as a result of witnessing the abuse.

While Spencer repeatedly attempted to have the divorce proceedings sealed from public view, Judge Heidi Ulbricht denied the motion, citing the Montana constitution and first amendment press protections.

Matthew Heimbach, another prominent young neo-Nazi leader, was arrested on domestic violence charges in March.