Candidate for governor built his brand through online vitriol—particularly toward Black women

Candidate for governor built his brand through online vitriol—particularly toward Black women

Experts say the candidacy of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson sheds light on how Republican candidates rise by appealing to the extremes and how hate spreads online.

by Grace Panetta, The 19th

North Carolina Republican gubernatorial nominee Mark Robinson has a long history of attacking influential women in personal and often vulgar terms. But Robinson has reserved particular vitriol for Black women in positions of power, with many of his social media postings invoking misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia.

Experts and advocates say Robinson’s candidacy and his easily winning the Republican nomination reflect both the incentives within the Republican Party to appeal to the extremes with inflammatory language and stances — and how major tech platforms have enabled the spread of hateful content disproportionately harming Black women.

“As it relates to Black women in particular, we know that they have historically been plagued by biases and disparities that reflect broader issues of representation and diversity within this country,” said Esosa Osa, founder and CEO of Onyx Impact, a nonprofit organization focused on Black voters’ civic engagement and combatting disinformation.

“As they become more visible on any platform, their presence is weaponized,” Osa said.

Robinson, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor who has made frequent speaking appearances at churches, rose to prominence with his far-right views, embrace of conspiracy theories and incendiary rhetoric at the pulpit and on social media. Throughout his career, Robinson has espoused anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ stances — including stating that God “formed” him to fight LGBTQ+ acceptance.

Robinson will face Democrat Josh Stein in one of the most competitive and consequential governor’s races this year. If elected, Robinson would be North Carolina’s first Black governor. His candidacy comes at a time when the Republican Party is attempting to win over more Black voters in battleground states like North Carolina.

But, Osa said, nominating a Black candidate doesn’t mean the Republican Party will win over Black voters, especially Black women, who are the core of the Democratic Party’s base. Osa said Robinson’s rise comes from a “historical lack of curiosity about the Black voter” and described him as a “tsunami of anti-Black disinformation.”

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