CLAREMORE – A state senate candidate from Rogers County is being called out for what critics say is hate speech targeting a number of different groups.
District 2 Republican candidate Jarrin Jackson has made posts that are criticized as anti-Semitic, homophobic and that insult Islam.
Jackson has tens of thousands of followers from across the country on sites such as Telegram, TruthSocial and Rumble. He also has promoted false information about the 2020 presidential election and rhetoric about vaccines and COVID-19 that medical experts say is dangerous.
Those critics also want Republican leaders to repudiate what Jackson is saying.
Rogers County GOP Chair Bill Pearson said his chapter remains neutral on candidates until after the runoff election later this month. He said he had no response to Jackson’s posts or remarks or those by any other candidate in the runoff.
On his campaign website, Jackson said he and his wife “homestead” south of Claremore and homeschool their three children. They attend a Collinsville church. Jackson writes that he’s a sixth-generation Oklahoman, a 2008 West Point graduate, and an Afghanistan war veteran who received two Bronze stars for combat. In one post, he wrote that he saw kids with suicide vests deployed against soldiers in Afghanistan. He was honorably discharged in 2015.
Jackson, who once told supporters that he has “multiple failed businesses to my credit,” is also a self-published author who operates an ammunition company with customers in every state “except those that hate guns.”
It’s also unclear where Jackson resides in Rogers County nor how old he is. A state law allowed Jackson to block public access to his candidacy paperwork, and he uses a UPS store in Claremore as his address for ethics paperwork.
Despite that, Jackson received the most votes in June’s Republican primary, guaranteeing him a spot in the Aug. 23 runoff election.
While he secured the most votes in the Rogers County primary last month, he has acknowledged publicly that his Telegram supporters largely fund his candidacy.
Ethics Commission disclosures show that he’s raised over $159,000, which includes a nearly $60,000 personal loan. He reports raising nearly $100,000 from individuals living in 43 other states and Thailand. Only about 60 donors reported an Oklahoma address.. Of those, roughly a dozen live within or close to the boundaries of the legislative district he’s seeking to represent. He’s accepted no funding from PACs.
Jackson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
‘Complicit in hate’
Among his comments, Jackson has said, “The god of Islam is a manmade God … It’s a demon-inspired God. It’s not a real God. You will go to hell if you are a Muslim. …”
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), took issue with Republican leaders who have not condemned Jackson’s posts and comments.
“I feel personally and professionally that we live in a world where you really can’t remain neutral anymore, and by saying that I want to stay neutral when there is a clear indication that somebody is being hateful toward a group of people, you’re complicit in that hate,” he said.
Soltani said Jackson appears to be “a textbook Christian nationalist,” and condemned Christian nationalism, which he said politicizes Christianity.
“The vast majority of Oklahomans are not hateful people and would not support hate toward any group of individuals,” Soltani said. “And any elected official should represent not only the people in their district, but the people of Oklahoma.”
Soltani said the former leader of the state GOP Party, John Bennett, was not only promoting conspiracy theories and divisiveness, but also allowed some of the smaller Republican district chapters to post negative comments about Islam, Muslims and other minority groups. Bennett also was criticized for making comments that were characterized as Islamaphobic, and came under fire for comparing COVID-19 rules to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.
His replacement, A.J. Ferate, could not be reached for comment by CNHI, but told the Oklahoma City newspaper recently: “Any sort of anti-Semitism that may exist within the Republican Party has no place within the Republican Party, and I will not tolerate it..”
Ferate did not address comments targeting other groups or spreading false information about vaccines or the 2020 presidential election.
“The Republican Party in Oklahoma has done a very poor job of controlling the people who serve in that party or run for House or Senate in that party and has emboldened them to promote this type of hate,” Soltani said.
Alan Levenson, director of the University of Oklahoma Schusterman Center for Judaic and Israel Studies, said he’s glad the head of the state GOP recently condemned anti-Semitism, but wants GOP leaders to condemn all hate speech.
“I don’t think staying neutral is a principled position where somebody is spreading hate and defamation of other groups,” Levenson said. “It’s a cynical thing to say you’re going to be neutral about anybody, right or left, who was spreading hatred and division. And certainly, that seems to be the one formula in American politics right now that’s awfully popular, and I wish it weren’t, like most people.”
Jackson has made anti-Semitic remarks including writing that “I don’t care what Jews think,” that he’s not “beholden to Jews or any other group.”
Levenson said he believes Jackson is “on the fringes,” not only in general, but among the ranks of Christians he’s met in Oklahoma and that Jackon’s views don’t reflect the way most Oklahomans think or what they believe.
He also said Jackson represents a “pretty fire-and-brimstone kind of religiosity, in which absolutely everybody on the planet is doomed to hell, except people who believe just exactly how you believe.”
The LGBTQ+ community is also a frequent target of Jackson’s comments. In a video about June’s Pride month, he said that it would be “deliciously ironic and eternally entertaining if God comes back today, gets us up out of here and then burns the whole place down. It would be amazing.”
He also said most people are not gay and find it disgusting whenever “they see other dudes kissing.”
“ … And yet we’re supposed to celebrate this? (Jackson laughs) Supposed to treat it like it’s normal. It ain’t normal.”
Alex Wade, interim executive director at Oklahomans for Equality, said there’s “an unfortunate attitude among bigoted Oklahomans that difference is not welcome and that everyone feels the same as they do.”
“Just because candidates like Jarrin Jackson think we don’t belong doesn’t make it so,” Wade said. “We are just as Oklahoman as he is and have the right to live and love in the state we call home.”
The Rev. Alexis Engelbrecht, with the First Christian Church in Claremore, also repudiated Jackson’s views. She said they do not reflect Jesus’ teachings to love one another and to care for the marginalized and oppressed.
“I am very concerned for the people Mr. Jackson dehumanizes in these statements,” Engelbrecht said. “Jesus was Jewish, as were his disciples. Jesus’ teachings were influenced by the prophets in the Hebrew Bible, so to say such things about a faith tradition with which Christians share sacred texts is a misunderstanding and misuse of scripture and history.”
An ordained Disciples of Christ minister with a Master of Divinity degree, Engelbrecht said the type of love Jesus reveals in his teachings and ministry is a love that does not discriminate, but instead responds to needs and connects people.
“As is stated on our website: ‘We agree that God’s love extends to all people, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, political ideology, age, gender identity/expression, mental and physical ability, or any other designation that has brought them the pain of exclusion and discrimination by the Church and society,'” she said.
Engelbrecht said First Christian Church Claremore does not believe homosexuality is a sin and welcomes members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I want people who are part of the groups Mr. Jackson targets to know there is a faith community in Claremore, Oklahoma, with members who strive to treat each person as a precious child of God,” she said. “We want to share messages of compassion and care that lead to reconciliation, liberation, and peace.”
Despite Jackson’s support for the Second Amendment, the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association has endorsed Ally Seifried, his runoff opponent. Don Spencer, who heads the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, did not return a message seeking comment.
Seifried said, when asked for comment: “Our words matter, and serious times require serious leaders … I look forward to providing positive leadership for our district that is conservative, thoughtful and in line with America First policies.”
The State Medical Association also condemned comments Jackson has made that “COVID shots kill,” that politicians have been “paid off and purchased” by the vaccine manufacturer Pfizer and that Oklahomans don’t really need the shot because COVID hasn’t really killed that many people.
COVID-19 has had a devastating toll on Oklahoma families for more than two years, said Dr. David Holden, president of the organization.
“Throughout this time, dangerous anti-vaxx rhetoric has contributed to the deaths of more than 16,000 Oklahomans and endangered thousands more,” he said. “With such loss, Oklahoma cannot afford to have leaders who reject science and the realities of COVID,” Holden said.
Jackson also said he classifies himself as an “undocumented Eastern Cherokee” because when his ancestors were forced to move to Oklahoma, they said, “We hate white people (and) we ain’t signing that garbage,” referring to the Dawes Rolls.
Regarding the ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling, which found that large swaths of eastern Oklahoma remain reservation land, Jackson said “(skin color) doesn’t mean that you’re more politically protected or less politically protected based on how brown you are. Amen.”
The Cherokee Nation didn’t respond to a message left seeking comment.