WASHINGTON — He helped President Donald Trump win Florida and managed conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer’s congressional campaign. Now Scott Barrish is trying to reinvent himself as a centrist.
The rebranding effort comes in the form of a violently named new foundation and political action committee that Barrish founded this week, the Sang de Liberte Foundation, which translates in French to blood of liberty. Not despite the name, though, Barrish says in an interview that the group is going to be a “center-right” organization aimed at advancing limited government.
“We will be a center-right-leaning organization, not alt-right, not alt-left, but center-right,” Barrish says. “We're not going to be a hard-right organization, we're not going to be a hard-left organization.”
That might come as a surprise given Barrish’s background. He was deputy manager for Loomer’s failed 2020 stab at a heavily Democratic House seat. Loomer, of course, is the far-right, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist who has claimed the Parkland school shooting was a hoax, has described herself as a “Proud Islamophobe,” and has worked with Project Veritas, Info Wars and several other right wing organizations.
Barrish himself has an Islamophobic past: He drew negative local headlines when in 2011, as a candidate for a local court position, he sent a letter to the Council of American-Islamic Relations claiming Islam is "not a religion" but a theocracy that is "totalitarian and littered with human rights violations," according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"Your efforts in espousing Islam in America and Florida will not succeed," Barrish wrote in the letter. "This is us vs. you. In the great words of the late President Ronald Reagan, 'I win, you lose!'"
But now, Barrish says his new organization will not discriminate, and says he wants to focus the group on marrying conservative fiscal policies and limited government with more centrist social policies, though he declined to say exactly which social policies. Barrish says while he has his own views about social policies like abortion access and gay marriage, the group is brand new and he’s going to rely on a yet-to-be-named board of directors to set the agenda.
“We will not discriminate membership, either officers, board of directors, or committee members, based on even their political ideology. So we will have a wide swath of individuals,” he says. “Democrat, Independent, Republican, Libertarian, those are the kind of backgrounds we're looking at.”
Barrish’s controversial statements on Islam resurfaced in 2016, when he was a regional staffer for Trump’s presidential campaign in Florida. The Associated Press dug up a 2013 tweet in which Barrish mused that although he hoped America wouldn’t spiral into a civil war, “if our freedoms must be defended against a tyrannical government, so be it.”
Barrish recently deleted his Twitter account though. And like all good center-right organizations, he’s promoting the Sang De Liberte Foundation almost exclusively on Parler, the conservative answer to Twitter, where users often post far-right, antisemitic, anti-Muslim and conspiracy laden content.
There, the supposed center-right group’s account has echoed statements by Q-Anon-linked Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), former Trump staffer Sebastian Gorka, and Loomer alleging, among other things, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The group follows every post with the hashtags #God #Family #Country #Freedom #Blood #LibertyTree #Conservative #Republic and urges followers to also follow the accounts of controversial British media personality Katie Hopkins and far-right political commentator Dinesh D’Souza.
The Sang de Liberte Foundation’s name references a quote from a 1787 letter written by Thomas Jefferson, in which he wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” The tree of liberty has become in recent years somewhat of a rallying cry for extremely online right wing patriot types.
But Barrish said despite the violent imagery in the group’s name, and despite his past comments about a potential civil war, it’s “completely allegorical.”
“I firmly believe that this country is at the precipice of a realignment of political parties, the precipice of people having introspection of where we lie in the state of civics in our country,” he said. “And I firmly believe the name of the Foundation, and allegorical symbology of the foundation, is very representative of where we are as a country in finding ourselves again at the rebirth of the republic.”
Barrish is a bit of a renaissance man, himself. Before signing on to the Trump campaign he was a private security guard and ran unsuccessfully for several local political positions. He also works as a paralegal and manages a travel agency with his wife.
Barrish declined to answer for some of Loomer’s controversial statements, saying he’ll leave that to her, but says he is proud of the campaign and hopes she’ll be able to flip the House seat she lost to Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel in the 2022 election cycle. Barrish declined to specify whether the foundation will donate to his former bosses Trump and Loomer, noting only that the group would boost candidates who are interested in “restoring the integrity and trust of limited government while respecting the rule of law.”