House Republicans seem to have a permanent slot for a designated white nationalist member in their ranks these days. Steve King, the Iowa congressman who finally stepped aside in the election, used to play the role. Nowadays, Paul Gosar of Arizona seems to have become the go-to guy.
Gosar was the keynote speaker in Orlando, Florida, at the America First Political Action Committee (AFPAC) conference organized by white nationalist troll Nicholas Fuentes, leader of the alt-right “Groyper Army.” He followed that up Monday by tweeting out a meme featuring the group’s motto, “America First is Inevitable.” And just as they largely did right up until King wondered aloud what was wrong with the phrase “white supremacist,” Republicans pretended as if nothing had happened.
Fuentes’ gathering was organized to run simultaneously with the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference also in Orlando last week since Fuentes and his “Groypers” were banned from that gathering. Fuentes and some of his cohorts nonetheless made a stunt out of invading the conference, and some managed to get selfies with far-right celebrities like Congressman Matt Gaetz before being escorted out by security.
Gosar’s AFPAC appearance was highly touted by organizers, and his keynote speech did not disappoint them. “I suggest that senators and members of Congress that fail to put America first should be held accountable at the ballot box,” Gosar told the audience. “This is the era of America first, not some reincarnation of neocon control.”
Fuentes followed Gosar on stage and delivered a speech neck-deep in white nationalist cant, saying that if the U.S. "loses its white demographic core, then this is not America anymore." He warned that “white people are done being bullied” by groups like Black Lives Matter. Such groups, he claimed, want to create “a new racial caste system in this country, with whites at the bottom.”
Fuentes played a key role in the protests leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, notably helping lead a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12. He was also present at the insurrection but claims he did not go inside the U.S. Capitol building; however, a number of followers—including the woman believed to have stolen a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office—did so. The ADL found that among the 212 people charged as of Feb. 17, 10 of them were white nationalist “Groypers. ”
He boasted about the Capitol siege in his AFPAC speech and was particularly proud that the mob managed to delay the certification of election results.
“While I was there in D.C., outside of the building, and I saw hundreds of thousands of patriots surrounding the U.S. Capitol building and I saw the police retreating ... I said to myself: ‘This is awesome,’” Fuentes said. The audience roared.
Gosar, who had skipped out on floor votes in Congress to make his AFPAC speech, made an onstage appearance at CPAC the next day as a panelist and mumbled an anodyne disavowal of white supremacists: "I denounce, when we talk about white racism, that’s not appropriate," Gosar said during a panel discussion. "I believe in a strong immigration system, but a legal immigration system."
Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts noted that none of Gosar’s Arizona colleagues—including Republican congresspeople Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko, and David Schweikert, Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, and Gov. Doug Ducey—offered any condemnation or even commentary on his open embrace of white nationalists.
Likewise, HuffPost’s Christopher Mathias notes that no rebuke has been forthcoming from national Republican leaders: “HuffPost this week reached out to the offices of seven prominent Republican politicians—including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy—to see whether they would condemn Gosar for attending an explicitly white nationalist conference. None responded.”
The GOP entity to respond to his queries was the Republican National Committee, whose spokesman, Tommy Piggot, replied with boilerplate text: “There is no place for anti-Semitism or racism in the Republican Party. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
Gosar has built a substantial far-right voting record in Congress and has a history of embracing far-right conspiracy theories and making racist remarks. His own siblings publicly denounced him in 2017 after he claimed that George Soros was responsible for funding the neo-Nazi movement in the U.S.
A fanatical Donald Trump supporter, Gosar was notably outspoken after Trump lost the election in November, posting an endless stream of conspiracy theories on Twitter—especially in the days leading up to Jan. 6. “Patriots: The time is now. HOLD THE LINE. Join me in DC January 6th,” he posted on Jan. 2.
The same day, he tweeted: “Notice how present day fascists who support a technology coup project. Sedition and treason for stealing votes is appropriate; gaslighting like this guy is transparently idiotic.”
The organizers of the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” event credited Gosar as one of their key supporters. Afterward, Gosar and Biggs pleaded with Trump for a preemptive pardon for their roles in the insurrection. Trump, predictably, threw them under the bus.
Published with permission of Daily Kos