He’s playing footsie with Nazis.
Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images
In a divided country, almost everything is the subject of partisan debate: The food we eat, the sports we watch, the public-health precautions we take — all have all become partisan indicators as implicit as the elephant and the donkey. However, traditionally there remained one little bit of common ground: The Nazis were bad. But the actions of Congressman Paul Gosar in recent months have tested that proposition.
First, the far-right Republican from Arizona was the much-touted surprise guest at an counter-CPAC event in February hosted by Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist who marched at the infamous neo-Nazi Charlottesville rally in 2017 where a neo-Nazi murdered a counter-protester. Gosar condemned “neocon control” in contrast to “America First” and he was followed by Fuentes praising the Capitol riot as “awesome” and arguing that if the United States “loses its white demographic core … then this is not America anymore.”
Then last week, Gosar a was revealed to be planning a campaign fundraiser with Fuentes, who has engaged in Holocaust denialism, praised segregation, and repeatedly made anti-Semitic comments. Gosar initially appeared to defend the fundraiser in a tweet saying, in part, “Not sure why anyone is freaking out.” The next day on Capitol Hill, he played coy with reporters, telling the Washington Post: “I have no idea what’s going on.” The Gosar campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the invitation.
Although Gosar has long had a reputation as one of the most extreme members of the House Republican conference, and has repeatedly defended those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, his association with Fuentes has put him in a category of his own even by the standards of the far-right Trumpist wing of the GOP. One Republican operative who has previously worked with Gosar’s team said he was shocked by the congressman’s recent embrace of extremists. “I don’t know what the fuck is happening,” he said, calling him an “incredibly smart member.”
Almost as befuddling is that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has yet to even chastise Gosar for his repeated associations with the extreme fringes. McCarthy’s office has not responded to requests for comment from Intelligencer on Gosar going back to February. That’s a change from McCarthy’s past practice as leader.
In 2019, then-Congressman Steve King of Iowa was stripped of his committee assignments by McCarthy after asking a New York Times reporter, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” The remark was the final straw after King endorsed a white nationalist for mayor of Toronto in 2018 and made comments expressing support for the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that there is a deliberate effort to “replace” white Americans with non-white immigrants. Before removing King from his committee assignments, McCarthy said in an interview insisted “that language has no place in America. That is not the America I know and it’s most definitely not the party of Lincoln.”
While Marjorie Taylor Greene was not pulled off of committees by McCarthy over her series of controversial remarks before taking office — ranging from implied support for executing Nancy Pelosi to musing about space lasers controlled by the Rothschilds — he did recently condemn her for comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust. “Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling,” said McCarthy in a statement. It seemed to work. Shortly thereafter, Greene held a press conference to apologize for repeatedly making that comparison.
In contrast, Gosar has not even drawn a rebuke from McCarthy for openly embracing a Holocaust denier. Instead, McCarthy met with Gosar then backed up his claim about the Fuentes fundraiser. “He says he doesn’t have — that it’s not real,” McCarthy told reporters. “That he doesn’t have anything on his schedule.”
One reason for the quiet is that Republicans haven’t been forced to play defense on Gosar like they recently were over Greene. While her comments drove news cycles and King became a national figure, Gosar flies under the radar of the national media. Part of this is chance — Gosar’s first appearance with Fuentes was drowned out by a conspiracy theory circulating on progressive Twitter that the stage at CPAC intentionally resembled a symbol used by some Nazis. But it is also because Democrats have remained relatively quiet.
It’s a more complicated case for Democrats to press than with Greene. As one Republican strategist noted, the issue with Gosar is about who he is associating with rather than what he is saying. Then there is the risk Democrats would be hit with “what about Ilhan Omar?”
“It’s not easy to do the two-step of educating why an association is unsavory, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying,” said the Republican. “At the very least, it’d muddy the waters with Omar’s comments.”
One Democrat chalked up the silence to the desire not give the attention they crave to the white nationalists Gosar is associating with. “There is a tension between spotlighting hate and disinformation in order to disinfect it and giving oxygen to people who are in this for the wrong reasons and thrive on it,” Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts told Intelligencer.
Meanwhile, other Republicans on Capitol Hill have pleaded ignorance about Gosar. Randy Feenstra of Iowa, who bested King in a primary, agreed to stop and take a question before entering the House chamber to vote on Wednesday. Once the question was asked about Gosar, he quickly passed through the metal detector at the chamber’s entrance and onto the floor. Others, such as Jim Jordan of Ohio, told Intelligencer they were unfamiliar with the controversy. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and declined to weigh in once it was explained to him that Gosar was going to a fundraiser with a Holocaust denier. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey also declined to weigh in, saying “whoever runs against him will bring it up often and it will be a major point of discussion.”