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Rep. Paul Gosar

Photo by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

House Republican leaders have remained silent after a member of their caucus skipped Friday's votes to attend a white nationalist event.

The event was also attended by a former congressman whom the leadership stripped his committee assignments just two years ago.

On Friday, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona told the House clerk that he was "unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency," giving his proxy vote to a GOP colleague.

But rather than working from home in safety as the House considered President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, Gosar instead spoke at the America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, an event organized by right-wing activist Nick Fuentes and designed to appeal to attendees of the weekend's CPAC gathering in the same city.

"At AFPAC, we don't wear masks. At AFPAC, we don't have homosexuals speaking on stage," Fuentes told reporters on Saturday while promoting the event where Gosar spoke.

Fuentes also leads a group of conservative activists calling themselves "Groypers" who promote anti-Semitic and homophobic ideas.

The Groypers are "a white supremacist group that presents its ideology as more nuanced than other groups in the white supremacist sphere," the Anti-Defamation League notes.

Fuentes was part of the infamous "Unite the Right" rally in 2017, after which Donald Trump praised violent neo-Nazi marchers as "very fine people."

Fuentes has a history of advocating for white supremacist causes and using white supremacist language. He was suspended in January from YouTube for hate speech, and the company described his account as one that had "repeatedly" violated its policies prohibiting such content.

In the past he has compared the Holocaust to Sesame Street's Cookie Monster making a batch of cookies and said Mexican immigrants should stay away from America lest they end up like the victims of the Aug. 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.

Fuentes expressed his opposition to immigration by advocating for "slamming the door" on immigrants "so hard that people's faces are shattering."

He has described transgender and same-sex marriage rights as "deviancy."

Fuentes also promoted violence ahead of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters. In a video released before the event, Fuentes said, "Our Founding Fathers would get in the streets, and they would take this country back by force if necessary. And that is what we must be prepared to do."

Similarly, Fuentes suggested killing state legislators who would not support conspiracy theories alleging that Trump had won the election instead of President Joe Biden.

A video of Fuentes calling on followers to "destroy the GOP" because many in the party would not submit to demands from extremists was a part of the presentation by House impeachment managers in Trump's second impeachment trial.

Former Rep. Steve King (R-IA) also spoke at Friday's event, just before Gosar.

In January 2019, King came under bipartisan fire after making comments to the New York Times, asking: "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?"

The GOP minority denounced him as a racist and stripped him of his committee assignments.

"Steve's remarks are beneath the dignity of the party of Lincoln and the United States of America. His comments call into question whether he will treat all Americans equally, without regard for race and ethnicity," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy explained. "House Republicans are clear: We are all in this together, as fellow citizens equal before God and the law."

"There is no place for hate, for bigotry or anybody who supports that ideology. It's evil ideology. We all ought to stand up against it," agreedGOP Whip Steve Scalise.

Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney said King "should find another line of work."

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) promised last May, "As long as I am a member of the Steering Committee, I will not allow that type of person or that type of ideology to influence the legislation passed by Congress. He will not be serving on any committee."

So far, none of the four has called for Gosar to lose his committee posts. Spokespeople for the lawmakers did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

This is not the first time Gosar has flirted with racism and bigotry.

He traveled to London in January 2018 to rally for an anti-immigrant extremist, blaming the "scourge" of Muslim people for sex trafficking and abuse.

In May 2019, he reportedly followed multiple racist and white supremacist accounts on Twitter.

Last October, he told a news outlet that Americans need to stop using the words "racism" and "racist" and should instead "take a chill pill."

Recently, House Republicans have shown less willingness to hold their members accountable for racism. Last month, 199 House Republicans — including McCarthy, Scalise, Cheney, Stivers, and Gosar — voted against removing racist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia from her committee assignments.

A Gosar spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Arizona Republican said on a CPAC panel Saturday that he does not support "white racism," but he has not denounced the event he attended only hours before.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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