WASHINGTON – Nick Fuentes, the leader of a white nationalist group, lamented the political persecution he said he faced by the federal government when he stopped in a recent livestream to congratulate one of his few supporters .
“There may be some hope for America First in Congress”, Mr. Fuentes said, referring to the name of his movement, a group that aims to preserve white, Christian identity and culture. “And that’s thanks – almost exclusively – to Representative Paul Gosar.”
Mr. Gosar, a Republican and five-term dentist from Prescott, Ariz., Has emerged this year as a staunch supporter of the “Stop the Steal” movement which falsely claimed that former President Donald J. Trump won the election of 2020 and was the spearhead of the rally. in Washington on January 6 which led to the deadly Capitol Riot.
But Mr. Gosar’s ties to racists like Mr. Fuentes and America First, as well as similar far-right organizations and activists, have come under less scrutiny. A review of public comments and social media posts suggests that in Mr. Gosar, they have found an ally and an advocate in Congress.
His unabashed association with them is perhaps the most vivid example of the growing acceptance of extremism by the Republican Party, which has become apparent as more lawmakers embrace and amplify conspiracy theories and far-right ideologies that feature prominently in the belief systems of marginal groups.
âPoliticians get support from far-right groups that emerge and become more visible – they get support from those voters,â said Kurt Braddock, American University communications professor who studies extremism. “What’s important for groups is that by partnering with these politicians – sitting members of Congress – they get a level of legitimacy that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida appeared last year at an event where security was provided by the Proud Boys, a far-right militia with more than a dozen members who were charged in the riot from the Capitol. Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert came under scrutiny for his links with the members of the Three Percent, a radical militia.
And before being elected to Congress, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene approved the execution of Democratic lawmakers, including President Nancy Pelosi. She was also a follower of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy movement that argues that a corrupt cabal of Democrats, global elites and career government workers who run a Satan-worshiping child sex trafficking ring will be soon arrested and punished for his misdeeds. , and that Mr. Trump will be reinstated as President. (Ms Greene has since said she does not follow QAnon.)
Mr. Gosar has appeared at rallies across the country, calling President Biden a “fraudulent usurper” and called the efforts to establish him a “sedition” and a “coup”. Last week, Mr Gosar came under scrutiny after a social media channel associated with Mr Fuentes announced an upcoming fundraiser featuring the two men. And in a recent fundraising, he spread a baseless conspiracy theory that the FBI could be behind the January 6 attack.
The statements and actions have drawn no sanction from Republican House leaders, who have largely refused to publicly reprimand those in their conference who espouse marginal beliefs or peddle disinformation. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Minority Leader, told the Washington Post last week that Mr. Gosar told him that the announced fundraiser was “not real”. A spokesperson for Mr McCarthy did not respond to questions about Mr Gosar’s ties to Mr Fuentes.
In contrast, Mr McCarthy moved quickly to try to silence Mr Trump’s most outspoken Republican critic: he purged Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney of her leadership position for exposing the lies that fueled the riot. of Capitol Hill and suggested she might lose her committee assignments for joining Democrats in the investigation.
Mr. Fuentes, a 22-year-old white nationalist, online provocateur and activist who leads the America First movement, boasts of the kind of resumes most members of Congress would shy away from. After marching both at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and outside the United States Capitol on January 6, he warned that the country was losing “its white demographic core.” Other conservative organizations have denounced him as a negationist and racist.
Mr. Gosar continued to associate with him.
The Arizona Republican was the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by Mr. Fuentes’ group in February, the only congressman to attend. Mr. Gosar spread America First’s motto and plans on Twitter and wrote to the FBI on Congressional letterhead in defense of Mr. Fuentes. In return, Mr Fuentes praised the congressman on his show and social media and urged his supporters to donate money to his campaign.
Mr. Gosar’s office did not respond to detailed questions about his ties to America First and other fringe groups.
First elected to Congress in 2010 as a vehement conservative, Mr. Gosar has previously espoused conspiracies, cultivating a hard right-line base in the process. In an interview before his election, he declined to say whether he believed President Barack Obama was a US citizen. He falsely suggested in 2017, that the murderous far-right rally in Charlottesville was planned by the Liberals and funded by George Soros. More recently he has asked if federal law enforcement officials planted agents in far-right groups that stormed the Capitol.
Mr Gosar gained national attention in 2018, when six of his nine siblings backed his opponent, warning that his increasingly extremist views made him unfit for office. But he has rarely drawn serious challengers in his deeply conservative district and is often re-elected, including last year, when he won nearly 70% of the vote.
Yet even though he has become more outspoken about his belief in fringe theories, Mr. Gosar has avoided imitating the kind of explicitly racist language used by Mr. Fuentes – comments of the kind that sank Steve King, a former Republican congressman from Iowa whose racist statements led to his withdrawal from congressional committees, earned him reprimands from his own party, and ultimately cost him his seat.
In a statement posted to Twitter last week in response to a wave of outrage over the announced fundraiser with Mr. Fuentes, Mr. Gosar sought to deflect criticism by alluding to the charge by curators that under Mr. Biden – who spoke out against systemic racism in the United States – the country’s institutions became hostile to whites.
“Just as racial supremacy has no place in America First, it has no place in our military, our schools or our meeting rooms,” M. Gosar wrote.
He denied that Mr. Fuentes’ group included “racial supremacists” and wrote that he was “I don’t know why someone is panicking”.
“There are millions of conservatives from generations Z, Y and X”, M. Gosar wrote. âThey believe in America First. They will not agree 100% on all points. No group does. We will not let the left dictate our strategy, our alliances and our efforts. “
In February, appearing at Mr. Fuentes’ America First conference in Orlando as a keynote speaker, Mr. Gosar focused his remarks on immigration and censorship on social media. The rest of the event took on a much less restrained tone.
Mr Fuentes warned that the nation would be lost if it “ceased to retain this English cultural framework and the influence of European civilization”. He showed a hype video featuring footage of the Capitol uprising, then praised what he called the âhundreds of thousands of patriotsâ who stormed the building.
Other speakers included Mr. King, whose video presentation highlighted her past remarks that “we cannot restore civilization with someone else’s babies,” and Michelle Malkin, a far-right commentator, who spoke of “our homeland in danger” and the need to “destroy the globalist phonies on the left and on the right which are decimating our past.
In addition to making his movement the imprimatur of a sitting member of Congress, Mr. Fuentes has made himself a powerful defender. In May, the Arizona Republican wrote to the FBI on its official letterhead accusing the agency of abusing its power to relegate individuals to the no-fly list, targeting Mr. Fuentes and pretending that other “constitutionalists” and “patriots” were also unfairly targeted.
Mr Fuentes said Mr Gosar had been the only Republican lawmaker willing to do so.
“Hardly anyone from the Republican Party had anything to say about it or felt concerned,” Mr. Fuentes said on his show, adding that his attempt to meet Ms. Greene was rejected by his team.
The bangs are not an unusual place for Mr. Gosar. After the Capitol Riot, he came under close scrutiny for his ties to Ali Alexander, a far-right activist and conspiracy theorist who emerged as a leader of the âStop the Stealâ movement. Mr. Gosar frequently tagged him in Twitter posts, including posts urging his supporters “not to accept a coup.”
At a December rally outside the Arizona State Capitol where Mr. Gosar spoke, Mr. Alexander called the congressman “the spirit animal of this movement.”
âHe helped where he could,â Mr. Alexander said. âHe offered to call the donors. In fact, we had our first walk in Washington because he called me and said, âYou have to go to the Supreme Courtâ. I said, ‘Alright, captain.’ And that’s what started.
In April, in response to an ethics complaint filed against him by Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, Mr. Gosar defended Mr. Alexander, saying his interactions with the activist had “revealed a devout Catholic” motivated “by a serious search for the truth and the love of his country.
In the same documentMr. Gosar also defended a meeting in 2017 with the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia whose members participated in the Capitol riot. During the meeting, the congressman told members of the group that the United States was in a civil war; “We just haven’t started shooting at each other yet.”
Mr Gosar said he addressed the Oath Keepers only because they invited him to speak at their meeting. But he added that only “leftists” saw them as an extremist group and pointed to their website, which describes them as “a non-partisan association of current and former military, police and first responders” who are committed to defend the Constitution.
Mr Gosar then nodded at another false conspiracy theory widely publicized after January 6: that far-left groups, including Black Lives Matter, were behind.
“If members of Antifa, BLM or Oath Keepers broke into the Capitol,” he wrote, “they should be properly charged with trespassing etc.”