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Arizona's Gosar invites backlash with speech at extremist's event

Why would House Republicans tolerate Paul Gosar's keynote address at the America First Political Action Conference? What's the possible defense?
Image: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.,
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., talks with reporters outside a meeting of House Republican Steering Committee meeting in Cannon Building, Nov. 14, 2014.Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Common sense suggests mainstream elected officials in the United States would want nothing to do with an activist like Nick Fuentes. He is, after all, the kind of radical who's called for "a homeland" for white people, who's engaged in Holocaust denialism, who rallied rioters outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and whose YouTube page was permanently suspended for promoting hate speech.

It's against this backdrop that Fuentes hosted a political gathering this past weekend -- the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) -- coinciding with the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). As the Washington Post noted, the right-wing organizer even had a sitting member of Congress deliver the keynote address at his event.

On Friday night, white nationalist activist Nick Fuentes convinced Rep. Paul A. Gosar of Arizona to speak at his America First Political Action Conference, an event with no ties to CPAC but with some shared attendance. When Gosar was finished, Fuentes spent 67 minutes mocking a disabled member of Congress, calling the Jan. 6 riots "awesome" and demanding protection for the country's "White demographic core."

Though the Arizona Republican later tried to distance himself from the AFPAC organizer, and denounced "white racism" as "not appropriate," Gosar nevertheless suggested that reaching out to attendees at the right-wing gathering was worthwhile.

"There is a group of young people that are becoming part of the election process and becoming a bigger force," Gosar said. "So why not take that energy and listen to what they've got to say?"

Remember, the "group" in question was organized by a notorious white nationalist. When elected officials are invited to associate themselves with such extremists, the obvious answer is supposed to be, "No." Indeed, a small army of GOP officials were already in town for CPAC, but none of them agreed to appear at AFPAC.

That is, with one exception.

Gosar not only accepted an invitation to appear at the event and listened "to what they've got to say," he also delivered the keynote address.

If the Arizona Republican's name sounds at all familiar, it's not your imagination. Gosar made headlines in January, for example, when he argued that the Jan. 6 insurrectionist attack should be seen as an example of "leftist violence." This came on the heels of Gosar going even further than most GOP lawmakers in insisting that Donald Trump won last year's election, reality be damned.

The congressman has also gained attention for following "out-and-out white nationalists" on Twitter, balking at a resolution condemning QAnon, and disseminating manipulated anti-Obama content via social media.

Gosar also appeared at a right-wing gathering a few years ago and was asked whether the United States was headed for a second civil war. "We're in it," the Arizonan reportedly replied. "We just haven't started shooting at each other yet.'"

All of which leads to a question the Arizona Republic's Laurie Roberts posed yesterday: "Why are no Republicans condemning Rep. Paul Gosar for cozying up to white nationalists?"

Arizona's most shocking story today isn't the fact that an Arizona congressman spoke at a white nationalist conference on Friday night.... It's the silence pouring forth from the Arizona Republican Party that is absolutely stunning.... [Gosar is] paling around with white nationalists and the response of his fellow Republicans is … silence?

This need not be a rhetorical question.

Keep in mind, in 2018, the Trump White House fired a speechwriter after officials learned he spoke at a conference attended by well-known white nationalists. Soon after, a Department of Homeland Security policy analyst resigned after his connections to white-nationalist activists was exposed.

If even the Trump administration didn't want to employ officials with white-nationalist ties, why would House Republicans tolerate Paul Gosar's keynote address at the America First Political Action Conference?