The U.S. Army is probing a West Point graduate’s pro-communist posts on social media. His father has condemned his political views on social media, and this graduate’s West Point professor has now been placed on administrative leave.
If you haven’t been following the saga, you may be overwhelmed by trying to figure out “what exactly is going on?” Here are the facts:
1. His name is Spenser Rapone, and he is a communist.
This week, 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, posted pro-communist images on social media, including a picture of him holding up his military hat with the message “Communism will win” written inside, and another image revealing a Che Guevara shirt underneath his military uniform.
Rapone’s Twitter account, @punkproletarian, has been protected (with original tweets unavailable to view). Sunday, Rapone wrote #VeteransForKaepernick, expressing support for last weekend’s NFL anthem protests.
Who nominated him for admission to West Point?— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) September 27, 2017
Who vetted him?
He's made his views clear for quite a while. Who dropped the ball? pic.twitter.com/MEGMq2iNlT
Monday, he clarified that he is indeed a communist, writing, “In case there was any lingering doubt, hasta la Victoria siempre” — the lyrics to a 1965 song by Cuban composer Carlos Puebla honoring communist revolutionary Che Guevara, who ran La Cabana, Castro’s prison for political opponents of communism.
2. The Army is investigating Rapone’s tweets
After public outrage at Rapone’s promotion of communism in uniform, the U.S. Army released a statement Tuesday saying “Second Lieutenant Rapone's actions in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.”
"As figures of public trust, members of the military must exhibit exemplary conduct, and are prohibited from engaging in certain expressions of political speech in uniform. Second Lieutenant Rapone's chain of command is aware of his actions and is looking into the matter. The academy is prepared to assist the officer's chain of command as required," the statement said.
3. Rapone’s past statements may have violated military code
Rapone isn’t just in trouble for disrespecting the uniform of the U.S. military. In additional tweets, Rapone denigrated Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence with vulgar insults.
Rapone referred to Sec. Mattis as “the most vile, evil fuck in the current administration” and to the vice president as “a fucking medieval, cold-blooded killer.” He’s also tweeted that he’ll “happily” dance on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s grave.
According to Jonah Bennett and The Daily Caller, Rapone’s statements have have violated Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which states: “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
The maximum punishment for this violation is dismissal from the military, forfeiture of all military pay, and up to a year in prison.
4. Rapone’s father, an elected official, disavowed his son’s politics … and hinted those views have changed drastically
Rapone’s father is Lawrence County (Pennsylvania) Treasurer Richard Rapone. In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, the senior Rapone repudiated his son’s radical politics, expressing much disappointment in his son.
“I disavow his political views and overall politics,” he wrote. “I am very disappointed in the direction he has chosen and as his father it greatly saddens me.
He went on to write that his son was not always a radical communist and once was very patriotic.
“As a young man, Spenser personified patriotism and in high school was a member of the Civil Air Patrol,” he recounts. “He applied to be a West Point cadet and at that time he was not selected. He enlisted in the United States Army right out of high school. Later, he served as an Army Ranger and was deployed to Afghanistan on special mission. He applied once again to West Point and was accepted.”
“It’s my belief when he returned back from Afghanistan there was a notable difference in his political views,” Richard Rapone wrote. “Spenser is my son and I love him dearly however I do not like nor condone his politics, his actions or behavior.”
5. The congressman who nominated Rapone to West Point has also disavowed him
Former Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire told The Daily Caller Wednesday he finds Rapone’s words “indefensible.”
“Several years ago, I met Spenser Rapone when he was a high school student seeking an appointment to West Point,” Altmire said. “At the time, he was an outstanding, well-rounded student who came from a good family. I have not been in touch with him in the years since the appointment, and I was shocked and extremely disappointed in the recent reports of his indefensible actions.”
“The behavior of 2nd Lieutenant Rapone is symbolic of a larger problem in our society — the epidemic of incivility in our public discourse,” Altmire continued. “While I strongly support the rights of American citizens to express their opinions, the actions of 2nd Lieutenant Rapone are abhorrent and appear to be in clear violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in addition to being inconsistent with the values of the United States Military Academy. I have no doubt that the U.S. Army will take appropriate action.”
6. Rapone’s mentor at West Point is now on administrative leave
While attending West Point, Spenser Rapone was mentored by Rasheed Hosein, a professor of Middle East history, who is now on administrative leave for reasons unknown. Hosein holds a Ph.D in Islamic history from the University of Chicago. His biography on the West Point website lists Rapone as one of several “cadets advised.”
A West Point spokesman told Breitbart News that Hosein’s leave is unrelated to Rapone.
According to Breitbart News, photos from Rapone’s Facebook page indicate that in 2014, Rapone accompanied Hosein on a trip to the Taj Mahal. Breitbart News’ Kristina Wong writes, “a review of Rapone’s Facebook page shows that over time, since 2014, his posts became increasingly anti-racism, anti-Israel, pro-Muslim, pro-Communist, anti-military, and anti-police.”
7. A Democratic Socialists of America veterans’ group is coming to Rapone’s defense
2nd Lt. Rapone is a self-declared card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). A Twitter account for veterans associated with the DSA tweeted their support and “pride” in Rapone.
Let there be no doubt that we have unequivocal solidarity with and pride in Spenser. He’s an exceptional soldier ???? https://t.co/o7UBSVlG1A— DSA Veterans ?? (@DSAVeterans) September 26, 2017
And that's all you need to know about the communist soldier dominating your newsfeeds last week.