Chad Nesbitt’s controversial career in local politics

AIN’T THAT AMERICA: Since the early 2000s, Chad Nesbitt has made a name for himself as an outspoken advocate of conservative Christian values. Often at the center of controversy, the free-swinging local activist and community journalist was recently injured while reporting on a protest in downtown Asheville. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Folks whose politics lean right might see local Republican activist and community journalist Chad Nesbitt as a staunch defender of conservative values; those steering more toward the left may have a less favorable view of the man. But if you’re among the thousands of people who’ve arrived in Asheville within the last five years, or you simply haven’t paid much attention to local politics, Nesbitt might be a name you’ve heard only in passing.

The latest Nesbitt headlines concern a head injury he sustained on Sept. 23 while livestreaming a demonstration in downtown Asheville. The protesters were demanding justice in the case of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot dead by police officers inside her Louisville, Ky., apartment.

During the march, a handful of participants attempted to block Nesbitt’s camera with umbrellas and signs. After a brief verbal exchange, Nesbitt was knocked over, hitting his head against a parking meter. Footage taken by someone else at the event shows Nesbitt’s bodyguard appearing to be shoved by an unseen person, precipitating the conservative activist’s fall and injury.

Asked for additional information, Asheville Police Department spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said only that the incident remains under investigation. On Oct. 5, Nesbitt posted on Facebook that he’d received 30 stitches and had been released after spending a week at Mission Hospital. Xpress reached out to Nesbitt for comment but did not hear back from him.

His supporters have left hundreds of comments on Skyline News — Nesbitt’s Facebook-based media outlet — sending thoughts and prayers. Friends have also created a GoFundMe campaign to cover his medical expenses. Meanwhile, Nesbitt’s critics convene on Reddit threads and other news and social media outlets voicing their disdain for the man and his activities.

To bring readers up to speed on Nesbitt’s often controversial role in local politics, Xpress combed through past reporting, press releases and community responses concerning his initiatives and antics over the last 20 years. Below are some of his professional and political highs and lows.

Family and politics

Known today as an outspoken conservative Christian, Nesbitt began his political career as a Democrat, serving on the 1991-92 board of directors for the Buncombe County chapter of Young Democrats. “My entire family were Democrats,” Nesbitt told Xpress in 2007 (see “Fighting Mad,” Dec. 5, 2007, Xpress). That included his stepfather, longtime state legislator Martin Nesbitt, who died in 2014.

Chad, however, said his early exposure to the party’s inner circle, along with the 1994 birth of his daughter, Savannah, ultimately shaped his conservative beliefs. “When she was born, I realized that abortion was wrong and that entire philosophy that the Democrat Party’s been feeding me for all these years was a lie,” he explained in the same article.

Raised in West Asheville in the 1970s and ’80s, Nesbitt graduated from Erwin High School in 1988 before attending the Savannah College of Art and Design. Over the ensuing years, he wore several hats including efforts in radio, television and, most recently, community journalism through Skyline News.

Alongside those endeavors, Nesbitt worked at WNC Parking Lot Services, a business his grandfather Jim Rhew launched in 1973. A Jan. 30, 1994, article in the Asheville Citizen-Times described Nesbitt as Rhew’s “right-hand man.” By 2016, while pursuing an unsuccessful campaign for chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, Nesbitt listed himself as the company’s vice president and manager. According to his Facebook page, Nesbitt is currently self-employed.

Conservative crusader

Although he’s been active in the community throughout much of his adult life, Nesbitt began appearing more frequently in local news coverage around 2003. On March 1 of that year, he helped organize the Support Our Soldiers rally, which attracted around 1,500 participants according to a Citizen-Times report. In a March 17, 2003, guest commentary, however, Nesbitt disputed the official police estimate, claiming that 4,900 people had attended the event.

Numbers aside, the budding activist applauded the rally and assured readers that his organization stood ready to assist those in need. “If you think your loved one is missing or hurt in battle, we will help you find out his or her status,” he wrote. “If you need any handyman work done around the house while your loved one is serving overseas, just ask. If you need someone to sit with an elderly family member, just ask. If you are a soldier and need help for anything — medical, communication, etc. — just ask. If you need prayer or spiritual guidance, just ask.”

Nesbitt subsequently chaired Citizens for Decency in Broadcasting, a grassroots group that opposed Buncombe County government’s interest in and support for public-access television. “Using our tax dollars and cable fees to promote someone else’s agenda on TV is wrong,” he wrote in a March 2, 2004, guest commentary in the Citizen-Times. “Don’t let our leaders subject our children to racism and pornography.”

Despite the group’s efforts, URTV hit the airwaves in 2006. Five years later, funding shortages ended Channel 20’s run.

A year after URTV’s debut, Nesbitt launched an unsuccessful bid to chair the Buncombe County Republican Party. A few months after his defeat, he formed the Carolina Stompers, a for-profit organization that aggressively promoted conservative causes. Early on, the group opposed a proposed amendment to the state personnel act that would add sexual orientation to the rights protected by law; the amendment was co-sponsored by Nesbitt’s stepfather. The bill never made it out of committee.

In his Dec. 5, 2007, interview with Xpress, Nesbitt stated that the Stompers’ opposition to the bill was part of a larger effort to combat the “homosexual agenda.”

Flamboyance and controversy

In 2010, Nesbitt was elected chairman of the Buncombe County Republican Party. His tenure was controversial and brief, however. That year, he worked actively against his stepfather’s reelection campaign for state senator.

“Frankly, if he loses the election it will be a good thing, because the North Carolina Democratic Party is so corrupt, we’ll probably keep him out of jail,” Nesbitt told Xpress in an April interview. “So we might do him a favor when he loses the election.” (For more, see “Askville,” April 7, 2010, Xpress)

In the same interview, Nesbitt predicted that local Republican candidates would win every race. Any losses, he declared, “I will consider my fault.”

ONE-MAN PARADE: In 2010, Nesbitt drove around downtown Asheville in his company’s street-sweeping truck with signs encouraging voters to “Sweep out the Democrats.” Photo by Michael Muller

That September, the Republican chairman drew harsh criticism from the local chapters of both parties for a political fundraiser he organized on the ninth anniversary of 9/11. Supporters were asked to contribute $100 for every person who rappelled down a 90-foot tower at the Bee Tree Fire Station in Swannanoa. But while Nesbitt claimed that the money raised would go to victims of the 2001 terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, a promotional video for the event indicated that most of the money would be spent on political advertising for Republican candidates in the upcoming election (see “Rappelling 9/11 Fundraiser Creates Fallout for GOP,” Sept. 13, 2010, Xpress).

The following month, Nesbitt appeared in a campaign ad driving a street sweeper through downtown Asheville; a sign on the front of the vehicle urged viewers to “Sweep out the Democrats.”

And though Republicans celebrated that November after gaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the local results favored Democrats. Rep. Susan Fisher defeated challenger John Carroll in N.C. House District 114; Rep. Patsy Keever beat Mark Crawford for state House District 115; and Rep. Heath Shuler breezed past Jeff Miller in the 11th Congressional District race. Meanwhile, Nesbitt’s stepfather defeated RL Clark in the 49th District state Senate race.

In a Nov. 7, 2010, Citizen-Times interview, Nesbitt stated: “Sure, we missed some opportunities, but let me tell you — and this is on the record — there are some dumb people in Buncombe, some of the dumbest people on the planet.”

Soon thereafter, Nesbitt announced that he would not seek reelection in the spring. And in a Jan. 2, 2011, opinion piece in the Citizen-Times, Chris Dixon, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate in 2010, wrote: “GOP Chair Chad Nesbitt will give up his post in a few weeks. However, this crafty self-promoter will cause more grief for the GOP establishment from the outside than he ever could as an insider. (Remember: Carolina Stompers were tea partying before it was cool.)”

Conflicting views

Since leaving his position with the local Republican Party, Nesbitt has remained an active and controversial figure in Buncombe County’s political and social affairs. If you’re a conservative, you may have applauded his August 2011 protest against Asheville’s Go Topless rally; if you’re a liberal, you might have covered your ears that November when he blasted an air horn from his street sweeper while driving in circles around the downtown Occupy Asheville movement. But if you’re new to the area, you might know Nesbitt only as the guy who, this June, summoned counterprotesters to edit the “Defund the Police” mural on Spruce Street to read “Fund the Police.”

Or maybe you’ve merely been following the comment threads on his hospitalization. Like everything else about Nesbitt’s public life, the events leading up to his injury continue to elicit a range of responses. To many of his online critics, he is an unsympathetic firebrand. To his Skyline News followers, he’s a beloved community member and family man.

And, in a phenomenon that seems increasingly rare these days, some in Buncombe County recognize him as both.

“I am not a fan of his media style or his politics. However, CN is an injured human being with a family who loves him, and I’m praying for him, his wife, his daughter and family,” wrote Amanda S. Turbyfill, one of the many commenters responding to the Skyline News Facebook post announcing the GoFundMe campaign to defray Nesbitt’s medical expenses. “I’ve watched several livestream videos of the accident in which he was injured, and head injuries can go from being no big deal to being serious very quickly. Praying for his full and speedy recovery.”

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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13 thoughts on “Chad Nesbitt’s controversial career in local politics

  1. S. Goodson

    Chad Nesbitt is a scourge who is taking advantage of his alt-right cult by begging for money. Imagine if he supported universal Healthcare! Perhaps then he would not need to be panhandling on the internet. He has no job that provides genuine income, just a rancid Facebook page that has managed to corral the worst kind of people together. Who is funding skyline lies? His inheritance from a great man whos name has been forever sullied by his virtually illiterate step son.

  2. T Caron

    How can you post an article about Nesbitt and ignore his 3%er militia men threatening people on Facebook or his so call journalist Carrie Lynn Pierce who is a nazi sympathizer married to a man who held a senior leadership positiok in a neonazi party?

  3. Jason Williams

    Has the Mountain a press run out of legitimate story ideas? Kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel for this one.

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    • NFB

      MX used to be at the WNC forefront of investigative reporting. Puff pieces seem to be their forte now.

  4. bsummers

    I hear Carl Mumpower is looking for a way to get clonked on the noggin’ so he gets some ink too.

  5. Media Watcher

    This is a very helpful review of Chad Nesbitt’s career, mostly in his own words from previously published interviews. The author’s intent is clear: ” if you’re among the thousands of people who’ve arrived in Asheville within the last five years, or you simply haven’t paid much attention to local politics, Nesbitt might be a name you’ve heard only in passing.” A legitimate and even necessary news/analysis piece for MX readers. The comments for the most part are not helpful, just personal attacks on Nesbit, name-calling. One comment was helpful in drawing attention to one of Nesbitt’s journalists, Carrie Lynn Pierce. Mr. Calder is to be congratulated. He might have been even more thorough by adding interviews with Nesbitt supporters and opponents and/or political analysts, perhaps a political scientist at UNCA or WCU. Space and time limitations probably limited Mr. Calder going any deeper. Still, a good example of what MX takes as its mission.

  6. Ray's mom

    I can’t believe mountain x wasted the electrons to post a story about this domestic terrorist.

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  7. AshevilleCitizens

    With all due respect, this type of reporting stands as facile, as it glosses over the real controversies precipitating from Chad and the greater Skyline community. The increasing amount of death threats, slanderous doxxing, violent language, and instigation coming from Chad and Skyline has put real people in danger in our community.

    Offering critique in a way that shows respect to an injured man is one thing. But writing in a way that shrugs off his manipulative, sensational, instigative, and dangerous political agitations serves to legitimize them. It’s therefore irreverent to the more localized Asheville community (Nesbitt lives in Leicester, and most of his followers who unleash scathing critiques of Asheville ironically reside in surrounding cities).

    This trivializes the fact that Skyline posts and comment threads are hotbeds of violence, threats, provocation, doxxing, slander, racism, homophobia, and the general instigation of “purges”, overthrowing City Council, and militia-led civil wars.
    See: Rondell Lance and Chad’s “Three Percenter” militia bodyguards.

    Chad Nesbitt has been identified as a known agitator in the Citizen Times and other outlets. Just because he uses Facebook Live to broadcast himself heckling protesters, and selectively reposts local police reports IN ALL CAPS does not make him a “journalist”.

    His injury is unfortunate. But Chad has incessantly showed up to various local protests of all shades, placing his body right into their ranks not to report, but to demean, mock, harass, and instigate altercations — all while gloating about his actions on Facebook Live.

    The other month, after exchanging spicy words with a local journalist, Chad showed up at their house.
    All after repeatedly posting pictures of himself holding ARs with a troupe of far-right “militia” members decked out in skulls and political ideology patches. This journalist is now among the dozens of Asheville residents who have been doxxed and have received multiple death threats from the Skyline community.

    Chad is a far-right yellow journalist who, in exploiting the volatility of the current political climate, has been actively seeking to deepen divisions in WNC. He has been intentionally radicalizing and galvanizing the Skyline community — which has been particularly effective with older, rural individuals who may not be as accustomed to distinguishing hyperbolic clickbait from balanced reporting.

    Chad and his family have indeed played a very supportive role for those who are close to them, but he and his blog have slandered more than enough community members to disqualify him from the mere “family man” persona.

    Sensationalism, agent provocateurs, abetting others to ‘get their hands dirty’ are a problem for our community, and need to be called out and addressed. This work is not in good faith.

    • Media Watcher

      “Skyline posts and comment threads are hotbeds of violence, threats, provocation, doxxing, slander, racism, homophobia, and the general instigation of ‘purges’, overthrowing City Council, and militia-led civil wars.”

      Could you please post links to these specific posts and comment threads on Skyline? Unable to find them.

  8. luther blissett

    The least harmful stunt in Nesbitt’s political “career” involved sitting on a horse at the mall intersection. And I doubt that was fun for the horse.

  9. Chad Nesbitt

    Just saw this article. Thank you Mnt Xpress. Not totally correct but a heck of a lot better than an Asheville Citizen Times article.

    The comments are slanderous. I am not a white supremacist. I love black people and all minorities. I have been fighting for minorities all my life. Just because I believe BLM has been high jacked by a bunch of communist anarchists does not make me racist. Just because I believe women deserve the safety and privacy of their own restroom does not mean I hate gay people. Men sharing restrooms with women is wrong. Militant gay people wanted same sex bathrooms. It was a gay agenda at the time. I beat them and my step father, Senator Martin Nesbitt, and I am proud to say I did it with the help of gay people whom are my friends.

    My reporter Carrie is not racist either. She is a brilliant journalist that is fair and balanced.

    The only people that has been violent is the anarchists that city council supports in Asheville. These are the racists. They hate America, the police, the press, business, and Christians. These anarchists have pushed the heroin deaths in our area and vandalized our beautiful city. They have intimidated, threatened, and physically injured people.. They all will be held accountable in a court of law.

    Thank you again Mnt Xpress.

  10. sanjitlpatel

    Sandra Goodson (or is it Badson?),
    On healthcare: There are 4 main bills that come from being hospitalized, (1) doctor’s services, including anesthesia, (2) medication, (3) lab tests, and (4) hospital bills <- which is disproportionately more expensive. Recently, hospitals have been known to charge $12k per night for the privilege of using a hospital room. Before Obamacare, my insurance premium was 1/3 of what it is today. Obamacare hit middle income families the hardest, leaving them with no disposable income. Obamacare did nothing to implement price transparency. Obamacare allowed more "super-hospitals" to be built, and forced aggregation of many small practices under larger systems. The challenge for small practices was HIPAA compliance with computer and software services, along with the EMR and patient portals that were mandated. Universal Healthcare is unsustainable as house democrats have designed it, and it's existence facilitates greedy corporate hospital systems to charge more money.

    Your own ill repute isn't elevated by chastising someone else's character. While you're pointing your finger at Chad Nesbitt, take a look at yourself. Chad has a unique style about him, as the article points out, you either love him or hate him. We're pretty clear where you stand. There are many people who follow Chad. I am one. He's the only one brave enough to go into the lions den to uncover what the rioters downtown are really doing. He's the only one brave enough to call attention to the needle exchanges ruining this city. He's the one who uncovered Brother Wolf's euthanasia of benign canines. Skyline News is financially supported by other existing enterprises. Alleging that Skyline is supported by inheritance is unsubstantiated.

    AshevilleCitizens,
    Just like every other left leaning narrative seen in social media and television, your statement omits the full context on where doxxing and harrassment started in Ashevlle. In the following radio interview on Asheville Alliance, (https://ashevillealliance.org/final-straw-radio-exposes-antifa/), shows that Mary Elizabeth Shrom had started the doxxing and harrassment of anyone against her agenda. The article goes on to say she freely labeled anyone a racist that didn't think like her. The death threats and doxxing were substantiated by APD and BCSO against Chad and his friends long before it was reciprocated (without the death threats). Many conservative democrats, moderate and conservative republicans espouse the same sentiment about the rioting and looting in downtown Asheville. It is not a symptom of Chad Nesbitt's style in coverage. The rioting, vandalism, and looting has only facilitated opposition against the "BLM" movement. Dee Williams, Asheville's equal rights advocate, doesn't agree with "BLM"'s aggressively violent actions either.

    Racism, homophobia, and violence are words used by leftist liberals so much, that they are left with no defensible substantive meaning. What activity do you intend to conflate with "See: Rondell Lance and Chad’s “Three Percenter” militia bodyguards."?

    His coverage includes more than reposting police reports. His investigative coverage of Brother Wolf, the needle dispensaries, and antifa is what journalists do. The fact that you don't agree with his findings is a different matter.

    Since I'm not hiding under an alias like "AshevilleCitizen", you might know that several of us were present at the Vance Monument, advocating support for law enforcement. The 3 or 4 counter-protestors "felt" overwhelmed, so they called Veronica Coit for back up. When she arrived, she furiously texted away on her phone after taking pictures. 15 minutes later her lackies arrived with protest signs screaming at the top of their lungs. It was the first of many demonstrations where anarchists and "Anti-fas" felt the need to use force to squash any dissenting opinion.

    "The other month, after exchanging spicy words with a local journalist, Chad showed up at their house." That statement is a libelous. Everyone also knows that the "local journalist" making the allegation is Veronica Coit, a hairdresser that was arrested for barracading traffic during a riot. She is also under a restraining order which has already been violated.

    AshevilleCitizens – Your dribble really sounds like the rantings of a misguided David Forbes or Veronica Coit.

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