Mr. Penny, who has been charged with killing Jordan Neely, has been called a “hero” and a good Samaritan by conservative political figures.
Little is known about the political views of Daniel Penny, the ex-Marine charged with fatally choking Jordan Neely on a New York City subway.
But since Mr. Penny’s arrest on Friday on second-degree manslaughter charges, he has been quickly embraced by right-wing political figures and groups.
A campaign to raise money for his legal defense — set up on GiveSendGo, a self-described Christian crowdfunding site that was also used to raise funds for some of those arrested in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — had raised more than $1.8 million as of Sunday night.
In urging his followers to donate to the fund, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a likely Republican presidential candidate, compared Mr. Penny to the good Samaritan, a biblical figure who comes to the aid of a man who has been beaten, stripped of his clothes and left on the side of the road.
“Let’s show this Marine… America’s got his back,” he said on Twitter on Friday.
Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, called Mr. Penny a “Subway Superman.”
Other right-wing commentators have also rallied to Mr. Penny’s side, including Charlie Kirk, who runs Turning Point USA, a conservative student group, and Jenna Ellis, a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump.
The groundswell of support from the right is a stark contrast to the reaction on the left after the killing of Mr. Neely, 30, on May 1. Protesters called for Mr. Penny’s arrest. Political figures including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, said Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, should have charged Mr. Penny immediately.
The Republican support for Mr. Penny, 24, who grew up on Long Island and whose most recent New York voter registration, from 2016, lists his party affiliation as Conservative, followed a pattern of response to past incidents, according to political analysts.
Conservative commentators also hailed as a hero Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old from Antioch, Ill., who shot three men, two of them fatally, during demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., in 2020. Mr. Trump met with him after he was acquitted of murder charges and called him “a nice young man.”
Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, has said he plans to pardon Daniel Perry, an Army sergeant who was sentenced to 25 years in prison earlier this month for fatally shooting an armed man during a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin.
Like these men, Mr. Penny has become symbolic of a “macho” and “tough, take-action, hold-your-ground” ethos that appeals to a conservative segment of the country, said Douglas Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College.
Noting that many facts about the chokehold case remain unclear, including what happened before Mr. Penny grabbed Mr. Neely, Mr. Muzzio said, “It doesn’t matter what he did or what he felt or what he believed.”
The charge against Mr. Penny “occurs in an atmosphere of extreme polarization and racial polarization,” Mr. Muzzio said. “It’s symptomatic of our times — the split between red and blue, the split between Black and white — and it resonates with some deep-seated realities of American politics.”
Moments before he posted his support of Mr. Penny on Twitter, Mr. DeSantis, during a visit to Peoria, Ill., took a shot at Mr. Bragg — voicing his disdain for prosecutors who are supported by “people like George Soros,” referring to the liberal billionaire and Democratic donor who is a frequent target of right-wing attacks, some of which use veiled antisemitic tropes.
Jumaane Williams, New York’s public advocate, said Mr. DeSantis’s criticism followed a right-wing playbook to draw political support by spreading fear “regardless of what the facts say.”
“If the violence can be linked to Black people or people who have melanated skin, they go even harder,” he said.
The praise of Mr. Penny is “depressing,” said Gabriel Murphy, an engineer who served in the Marines from 2006 to 2010 and who soon after Mr. Neely’s death began a petition calling for charges against Mr. Penny, saying he had misused the chokehold.
He said people have a picture of the military in their minds. “They’re cheering on that mental picture — that every Marine is a bloodthirsty killer who is waiting to enact righteous violence,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview.
But Marines are trained to use a chokehold on enemy combatants and to stop using such force once their adversary loses consciousness, he said. A four-minute video that recorded the chokehold showed Mr. Penny hanging on tight to Mr. Neely 50 seconds after he went limp.
“I don’t think what he did was OK, and I don’t think it’s in line with anything the Marine Corps teaches,” Mr. Murphy said.
The fund for Mr. Penny’s legal fees was organized by his lawyers, including Thomas Kenniff, who ran as a Republican against Mr. Bragg in 2021. Mr. Penny’s lawyers were not immediately available for comment on Sunday.
One anonymous donor gave $10,000 with a note saying, “thank you for protecting the citizens that day.”
On Sunday, a fund set up by Mr. Neely’s family to help pay for funeral costs had raised a little more than $116,000.
Nicholas Nehamas contributed reporting.