An assistant attorney general in Alaska who reportedly uses the #DezNat Twitter handle @JReubenCIark is being investigated for allegedly posting homophobic, antisemitic, sexist and racist tweets.
Matthias Cicotte, chief corrections counsel for the state’s attorney general, uses that name as an active participant with the online group #DezNat, according to a story published Wednesday by The Guardian.
The hashtag, which stands for Deseret Nation or Nationalism, was coined in 2018 as a loosely aligned digital network of self-appointed warriors to defend the doctrines and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Utah-based faith has pointed out that #DezNat is “not affiliated with or endorsed by [the church]” and has decried any racist or uncivil interactions.
Even before they adopted #DezNat, though, some of its Latter-day Saint participants — including @JReubenCIark, which uses an uppercase I in the last name, instead of a lowercase L — were connected to white nationalist movements and issues.
Since then, JReubenCIark has “advocated various extreme positions,” The Guardian reported, “including the summary imprisonment of Black Lives Matter protesters; vigilante violence against left-wing groups; and a punishment of execution for acts including performing gender reassignment surgery.”
Cicotte, who earned his degree from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, has not responded to emails or earlier voice messages from The Salt Lake Tribune. But Grace Y. Lee, an assistant attorney general in Alaska, confirmed Wednesday that the office is “gathering information and conducting a review on this matter.”
While recent #DezNat users have focused their energies critiquing and condemning members they consider progressive (“progMos”) or critical (“anti-Mos”), JReubenCIark has continued to comment on political issues, said Mary Ann Clements, a Latter-day Saint blogger with Wheat & Tares who has researched #DezNat.
He was in the original group with Ayla Stewart of “Wife With a Purpose,” Clements said Wednesday.
Stewart, who has long been identified as a Latter-day Saint but has also described herself simply as “Christian,” tweeted in 2017 that racism against “white ppl [people] and white ppl [people] only, in the form of denying us our heritage and culture, is in direct conflict with the gospel of Christ.”
The church denounced white nationalism after the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., saying, “white supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them.”
Stewart also pushed the idea to repeal the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, arguing that women “drag politics to the left in Western countries; if their suffrage were gone, white people’s problems, including low birthrates, would vanish.”
JReubenCIark defended Stewart when her Twitter account was suspended and shared her views on women, said Clements who previously discussed #DezNat on The Salt Lake Tribune’s “Mormon Land” podcast.
On May 26, 2020, JReubenCIark wrote: “You don’t have to agree with me about #Repealthe19th to be a faithful Saint but if you find my advocacy for it to be so completely at odds with the gospel that I cannot be a faithful Saint, you have not broken your programming and your soul is at risk. #DezNat.”
“He’s definitely a misogynist,” Clements said, pointing to comments he also made about the need for women to lose weight to get a husband or that Latter-day Saint female missionaries should be more attractive.
Spencer Greenhalgh, a social media researcher at the University of Kentucky, has made an in-depth study of #DezNat tweets. He agrees that the person who uses the moniker JReubenCIark is a “true believer in the far right in a way that a lot of other #DezNat people might not be.”
The far right has “strong historical and even strategic ties to the anti-feminist movement on the internet,” the scholar said, which “ought to be as concerning for Latter-day Saint leadership as it is for the Alaskan state government.”
The real J. Reuben Clark was a member of the faith’s governing First Presidency from 1933 to 1961, as well as an outspoken proponent of racial segregation, according to his biographer, the late D. Michael Quinn, and who had “personal prejudices toward Jews that he expressed to many people, including those of high position such as Herbert Hoover.”
“The more I read about Clark as a historical figure, the more I feel like I get the [#DezNat Twitter] account,” Greenhalgh wrote in an email. “That is, the CIark account may well identify with its namesake because of — not in spite of — the views he held.”
The Guardian, a British newspaper, says that many of his tweets “suggest antipathy towards Jews, who are the subject of hundreds of tweets that suggest that they are involved in conspiracies against white people, or that they already control the commanding heights of the economy, the media or education.”
The article cites a 2016 tweet in which JReubenCIark evokes a time when “real history was taught in school, angry yentas didn’t rule, white men didn’t play the fool.”
Beyond his political views, the JReubenCIark user has “very hard-line views on what it means to be a ‘good Latter-day Saint,’” Greenhalgh said, “and while those are less concerning than some of the views expressed in The Guardian tweets, there are real consequences for the church. These hard-line views on church doctrine and the authority behind them are common in #DezNat, and many DezNatters believe that they’re in lockstep with church leadership.”
If that’s not the case, the church needs to make that clear to them, the scholar said. “If it is the case, that also poses problems. .. It’s one thing for CIark to see himself as sifting out the unrighteous on Twitter, but has he ever done so as an elders quorum president? A bishop?”
Amy Chapman, a Columbia University professor of psychology and education who has collaborated with Greenhalgh on research about #DezNat, is troubled by JReubenCIark’s tweets.
“While not everyone who uses the #DezNat hashtag seems to share these (misogynistic, homophobic and racist) views,” Chapman said in a statement, “they dwell in a space where those views are tolerated, welcomed and shared.”
The fact that Cicotte, an assistant attorney general who reportedly is posting as JReubenCIark, “is in a position meant to uphold the rights of all and who has influence over civil rights litigation at the state level,” she said, “seems antithetical to the purpose of his position.”
Correction • Thursday, July 22, 8:55 a.m.: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the @JReubenCIark Twitter handle.