Part of what makes Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) one of Congress' most controversial members is what he does on Capitol Hill. The far-right Arizonan, for example, recently blasted the Justice Department for "harassing" suspected Jan. 6 rioters, whom he described as "peaceful patriots."
Gosar also, of course, voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results, and opposed Congressional Gold Medals to honor Capitol Police officers who protected the building during the pro-Trump riot.
But there's also the matter of the GOP congressman's work away from Capitol Hill. The Arizona Republic reported this morning:
In an unsubtle rebuke to his many critics, Rep. Paul Gosar is planning a fundraising event with a white nationalist who has been banned from YouTube for repeatedly violating rules against hate speech. A post on the conservative social media platform Telegram may have teased a fundraiser with Gosar, R-Ariz., and Nick Fuentes, who attended the deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally. The post came from an account said to have ties to Fuentes.
The congressman's office hasn't officially confirmed his attendance at the advertised event, but Gosar did publish a tweet last night that read, "Not sure why anyone is freaking out. I'll say this: there are millions of Gen Z, Y and X conservatives. They believe in America First. They will not agree 100% on every issue. No group does. We will not let the left dictate our strategy, alliances and efforts. Ignore the left."
Let's take a minute to review how we arrived at this point.
Paul Gosar had already earned a reputation for being one of Congress' most right-wing members, having gone further than most 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.'"
But earlier this year, the six-term GOP lawmaker went even further by associating himself with Nick Fuentes. As we've discussed, Fuentes has called for "a homeland" for white people, engaged in Holocaust denialism, rallied rioters outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and found himself permanently suspended from YouTube for promoting hate speech.
Fuentes is also a white nationalist who hosted a political gathering in February called the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC). Ordinarily, that wouldn't be especially noteworthy, since fringe extremists hold random events all the time, but in this case, Fuentes' conference featured a sitting Republican congressman: Gosar delivered the keynote address at the gathering. (He skipped a vote on a COVID-19 relief bill to attend Fuentes' event.)
After the congressman spoke, Fuentes delivered some additional remarks of his own, spending 67 minutes "mocking a disabled member of Congress, calling the Jan. 6 riots 'awesome' and demanding protection for the country's 'White demographic core.'"
All of which brings us back to the excellent question recently posed by the Arizona Republic's Laurie Roberts: "Why are no Republicans condemning Rep. Paul Gosar for cozying up to white nationalists?" She added that Gosar is "paling around with white nationalists and the response of his fellow Republicans is ... silence?"
To that end, HuffPost tried to get an answer to those questions, but found most GOP leaders were unwilling to say much of anything about Gosar and his associations. To her credit, then-House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was more critical of the Arizonan, but soon after, House GOP lawmakers decided to punish Cheney -- not Gosar.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, there is an existing blueprint for situations like these. 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.
What's more, two years ago, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) expressed disgust with then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), stripped him of his committee assignments, rendered him irrelevant, and watched the Iowan's career evaporate soon after. (King, incidentally, also spoke at Fuentes' gathering.)
GOP officials could treat Gosar the exact same way. At least for now, they apparently don't want to.
Postscript: It's also worth noting that House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) issued a 2,000-page report in March "exposing thousands of social media posts by GOP lawmakers attacking the presidential election and spreading lies before and after the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters seeking to overturn the results."
Messages posted from Gosar took up 177 pages in the report: "He peddled baseless claims that the election had been stolen and that officials who had been upholding the legitimate election were committing 'treason and sedition.'"
Update: For what it's worth, the Arizona congressman was asked this afternoon about the apparent fundraiser and he responded, “I have no idea what’s going on. That’s news to me. There’s no fundraiser scheduled on Friday.”