Nehlen was born in Ohio, and has lived in Delavan, Wisconsin since 2014. His business career has included stints at Deltech Engineering / United Dominion Industries and SPX Corporation, and he served until 2016 as the Senior VP of Operations at Neptune-Benson LLC. a subsidiary of Evoqua Water Technologies. He holds several patents related to filtering and manufacturing methods, and registered in 2014 a consulting entity, Blue Skies Global LLC, which does not appear to have conducted any business to date. Nehlen was a Midwest Region advisory board member of Operation Homefront until 2016, and is married to Gabriela Lira. They have no children of their own, but Nehlen has two grown sons from a prior marriage.
On December 14, 2017, Nehlen's campaign released a statement calling for a federal law banning large social media companies from censoring or restricting "lawful speech" on their platforms. Nehlen's proposed bill includes fines of $500,000 for each violation. Supporters of Nehlen have used the hashtag #ShallNotCensor online to show their support for this position. Limitations to "lawful speech" would include "No publishing any individual's nonpublic residential address, telephone number, or email address without their consent". However, Nehlen's campaign has posted private phone and email addresses without their consent on the website and then tweeted a link to them.
On Twitter, he suggested Ari Cohn convert to Christianity to "fill a Jesus-shaped hole" inside of him. Nehlen said he was reading The Culture of Critique (1998) by Kevin B. MacDonald and described it as "outstanding so far". He called John Cardillo and Kurt Schlichter "shekels-for-hire" and posted a tweet with the antisemitic catchphrase "The goyim know" (referencing a popular theory about an alleged Jewish conspiracy). In a text message he sent to The Washington Post Nehlen claimed, "I reject being called a White Supremacist, because clearly Pro-White isn't White Supremacy unless Pro-Jewish is Jewish Supremacy."
In a discussion with neo-nazi Patrick Little on an alt-right podcast, Nehlen formally endorsed genocide, and is quoted as saying he wouldn't be "opposed to somebody ... leadin’ a million Robert Bowers to the promised land."
Nehlen also posted on Twitter a picture of Paul Ryan and Randy Bryce being dropped out of a helicopter, a reference to death flights, a method of executing political opponents. Responses to this message included death flight memes of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet (whose regime killed more than 100 people by this method) and Pepe the Frog.
He is a critic of the presidency of Donald Trump, calling him a "cuck" and a failure. Initially Nehlen, when he was running against Paul Ryan in 2016, was supportive of Trump's presidential campaign.
On February 9, 2018, in response to claims that prehistoric Britons probably had dark skin, Nehlen tweeted a picture of Prince Harry with a reconstruction of a prehistoric dark-skinned Briton superimposed over his biracial fiance Meghan Markle, with the words "Honey, does this tie make my face look pale?" Nehlen was subsequently suspended from Twitter, which Nehlen described as a violation of his free speech.
Border wall and immigrants
In late February 2018, he was a guest on former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's radio show, and stated that Trump's proposed border wall should include automatic turrets. Nehlen stated that any Mexican immigrant who approaches the American border should "be treated as an enemy combatant. Man, woman or child."
Social media bans
In February 2018, after a series of racist and anti-Semitic tweets, he was permanently suspended, or banned from Twitter. The Republican Party of Wisconsin has cut off ties with Nehlen, saying that his "ideas have no place in the Republican Party".
In April 2018, Nehlen allegedly doxed alt-right people that he saw as too moderate, willing to compromise, or unwilling to take militant street action.Gab, which is considered by some to be an alt-right version of Twitter, banned Nehlen for doxing a troll who went by the name Ricky Vaughn. After doxxing the troll, who gained notoriety by posting popular racist and antisemitic memes, Nehlen claimed that the troll's real name is Douglass Mackey.
For his run in the 2016 Wisconsin's 1st congressional district primaries, he received endorsements from Breitbart News and the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund and people such as Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin. He was defeated, getting 16% of the votes versus Paul Ryan with 84% of the votes. When he posted a ballot selfie on election day, the Town of Delavan police said he had committed election fraud, a Class I felony. The police said he deliberately delayed an investigation by doing a factory reset on the phone and erasing the SIM card. Assistant District Attorney Haley Johnson said the ballot selfie was "technically a violation" of law, but decided not to issue criminal charges, stating Nehlen had "ignorantly posted the image to draw attention to his candidacy," and not vote buying. Johnson wrote "It is unfortunate that Mr. Nehlen showed such little regard for a law enforcement investigation."
Nehlen ran again in 2018 to replace Paul Ryan, this time with Nick Polce also in the race for the 2018 Republican primary. He was backed by Steve Bannon up until the Roy Moore defeat, now being denounced by Breitbart. On December 27, 2017, Bannon's adviser Arthur Schwartz said Nehlen is "dead to us" and "Bannon cut all ties with him and tossed him to the curb." Breitbart senior editor Joel Pollak said: "We don't support him." On December 27, Pollak tweeted that Breitbart had not covered Nehlen in months. However, as recently as December 18, he had been a featured guest on Curt Schilling's Breitbart radio show Whatever It Takes; Schilling unequivocally expressed his endorsement of Nehlen. Callum Borchers of The Washington Post said "Breitbart's move is political calculus" because it "needs to align itself with politicians who can win to help regain the appearance of influence Moore's defeat damaged."
On February 13, 2018, Wisconsin GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman said, "Nehlen and his ideas have no place in the Republican Party." Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said, "It looks to me like he's a racist bigot." Ryan's campaign spokesman Kevin Seifert said, "It has long been clear that Paul Nehlen holds bigoted views." Nehlen responded with, "I am a member of the Republican Party regardless of what their traitorous, spineless apparatchiks believe," adding his agenda should "be the centerpiece of the Republican Party."
^These are candidates who have announced the intention to run; nominating papers must be filed by June 1, 2018. The Republican primaries will be held on August 14, 2018, followed by the general election on November 6, 2018.