How Paul Gosar Became An Icon To Those In The Modern Fascist Movement

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Earlier this month, Talking Points Memo identified a chain of evidence that strongly suggested Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ) digital director, Wade Searle, was involved with an interlinked group of social media profiles that were deeply enmeshed with white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes’ viciously antisemitic “Groyper” movement. Details highlighted the accounts’ professed loyalty to the hierarchical hate group and their dedication to Fuentes, who referred to the accounts’ administrator as one of the “strongest soldiers” in his “movement.” The news had some impact: Gosar faced condemnation from President Joe Biden, Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), and multiple Jewish advocacy groups, including the Republican Jewish Coalition. Some have called for an investigation into the report, though Gosar remains, perhaps predictably, silent. 

I was a source for TPM on the story, contributing research that I’ve independently collected over years of tracking the far-right in Arizona. And while the revelations in the story were significant, they weren’t necessarily surprising. The Groypers are deeply hateful and grotesque, but Gosar has never been shy in his flirtation with various factions of the fascist far-right, including the Groypers’ leader, Fuentes.

Or, as Gosar himself has bragged in the past: “I’m considered the most dangerous man in Congress.” 

A large swath of the far-right has, in turn, taken notice, with Gosar becoming a sort of hero in some corners.

In 2011, the dentist-turned-legislator arrived in the House after a relatively narrow victory in his election amid the Tea Party wave. His win was partially thanks to a Sarah Palin endorsement — he was the only candidate she campaigned for — and the support of the American Dental Association (ADA), where he once served as the chairman of the Council on Government Affairs. Now, Gosar runs in a safe, very red district; his hateful antics over the years have left him without the support of the ADA, which in 2001 had dubbed him “dentist of the year.” 

Over the last decade, Gosar has curated a national and international constituency that goes beyond the residents of his western Arizona district: the vanguard of the national and international far right. He has spent his time in office traversing the country and the globe, offering his support to fringe movements. In 2014, he caravaned down to Bunkerville, Nevada in support of Cliven Bundy and his armed militia wannabes as they took on the federal government for their “right” to illegally graze where they chose in a modern “war for the West.” In 2018, he flew out to London to stand in solidarity with Islamophobic bigot and English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon). In his speech, which was condemned by the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Gosar vilified Muslim immigrants as rapists and “disgusting and depraved individuals.”

Gosar speaks at Bunkerville (Dr. Kelli Ward’s Facebook)

Earlier this month, Gosar was a speaker at a CPAC Hungary event titled “Nations First,” appearing alongside the chairman of the Freedom Party of Austria, a party founded by Nazi SS officers. In his speech, Gosar praised authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Hungary as a “beacon in the West” for its strict anti-immigration and anti-LGBTQ laws. The nationalist rhetoric continues in Gosar’s own office as he calls for a total ban on all immigration to the United States and demands widespread militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gosar has lent his support to a broad coalition of far-right bigots and Christian supremacists: from the shitposting Groyper neo-Nazis to the camo-clad LARPers and hate groups to the suit-wearing, ultranationalist political elites at home and abroad. He’ll rile up the Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers, telling them that the United States is already in a Civil War, “we just haven’t started shooting yet,” then repeat the same line in an interview with a well-documented neo-Nazi. He’ll even associate with the conspiratorial (and often ridiculous) QAnon movement, tweeting out references to Q-drops (Gosar later said the tweet was sarcastic, though the tweet remains up to this day) and appearing at Q-friendly rallies.

Paul Gosar posing with Ron Watkins, the alleged “mastermind” behind QAnon. (Ron Watkins’ Telegram)

This all reached a boiling point during the “Stop the Steal” era and leading up to the January 6 insurrection when the many factions of the paranoid, conspiratorial and violent far-right came together to rally around Donald Trump and against American democracy. Gosar was, of course, in the center of it all. 

By the night after the 2020 election, Gosar was already rallying alongside armed Trump voters and Mike “Pizzagate” Cernovich to question the legitimacy of the votes. He’d continue to appear at Stop the Steal rallies throughout Arizona to prepare the angry base for what was coming. After the insurrection, he was among the very first elected officials to lie about “Antifa” causing the chaos of January 6, and soon joined insurrection apologists in lionizing Ashli Babbitt and J6 arrestees as martyrs.

It was not long after the insurrection that Gosar also began courting Nick Fuentes and the Groypers.

Fuentes and his following are particularly repulsive. He regularly streams his misogynistic, racist and antisemitic rants on his network, where parasocial Groypers toss out slurs in his live chat and donate to their dear leader. On occasion, Fuentes asks his followers to pledge their loyalty to the himself, “the white race,” and Jesus Christ while also asking them to “rape, kill, and die for Nick Fuentes.” He has denied the Holocaust while simultaneously calling Adolf Hitler “really fucking cool.” Only days after TPM’s report, in which Gosar’s digital director Searle was linked to the influential Groyper accounts, Fuentes made news again after openly fantasizing about marrying an underage bride.  

In one recent, representative rant complaining about abortion, homosexuality, feminism, contraceptives, and sex, Fuentes explained that a lot of things he hates are “popular” and placed the blame (as usual) on “the Jewish media.” 

“‘Popular’ means that people support it, which they do,” Fuentes said. “And it sucks, and it is what it is, but that’s why we need a dictatorship. That’s unironically why we need to get rid of all that. We need to take control of the media, take control of the government, and force the people to believe what we believe, or force them to play by our rules.”

There may have been a time when it would have been obscene for a politician to affiliate so openly with a predatory neo-Nazi like Fuentes, but Gosar has provided Fuentes’ Christofascist youth movement with more political credibility than any other elected official.

“As the Right continues to radicalize, figures like Gosar may calculate they have more to gain from keeping these movements like the Groypers at hand rather than pushing them aside,” explained Ben Lorber, a senior research analyst for Political Research Associates with a focus on Fuentes and the Groypers. “Doing so would alienate the Gen-Z white nationalist base that provides him ground support in Arizona, and loyal praise online.”

In February 2021, Gosar surprised Fuentes’ mostly young, mostly male audience as the keynote speaker at the second America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC). The next year, Gosar would appear by video at the third AFPAC alongside his fellow far-right Arizonans, including former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio and state senator Wendy Rogers. Gosar’s Freedom Caucus colleague, Marjorie Taylor Greene, also made a surprise in-person appearance at the same white supremacist rally, where Fuentes praised the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the January 6 insurrection, and Adolf Hilter.

Gosar speaks at the second America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. (Livestream)

Gosar’s willingness to appear at AFPAC highlights his comfort with some of the most extreme bigots in the American political scene. At AFPAC, Fuentes fanboys pack the crowd alongside other Groyper influencers and old-school white nationalist propagandists. Featured guests at AFPAC III included fellow streamers on Fuentes’ platform like Vincent James Foxx, who has expressed his desire for a Christian theocracy where gay people are criminalized via execution, and Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet, who has faced criminal charges for storming the Capitol on January 6 and his defacement of a Hanukkah display in Phoenix, AZ (all of which he live streamed, of course). Elder white nationalists in attendance included disgraced former congressman Steve King and Jared Taylor, who has long organized Klansmen, alt-right figures, and other white supremacists at his own biannual event.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tepidly condemned Greene and Gosar following their AFPAC appearance, and Sen. Wendy Rogers was censured back in Arizona for the violent calls made in her speech. Gosar blamed his second appearance on a miscommunication with a staffer (wonder which one), but the slap on the wrist failed to stop Gosar’s  pandering. Only months after being lectured by McCarthy, Gosar was back to making headlines for being listed as a guest with another Groyperesque organization, American Populist Union, holding an event on Hitler’s birthday. Gosar denied his involvement, saying he was booked that day, though he had promoted the gathering on social media.

To further highlight Gosar’s comfort in these circles, Gosar has promoted Foxx’s social media and his fringe white nationalist blog over a dozen times. In “The Breach: The Untold Story of the Investigation into January 6th” — written by former U.S. Representative Denver Riggleman and TPM reporter Hunter Walker — Riggleman recalled a 2019 Freedom Caucus trip to the southern border during which Gosar and then-Representative King “dove into a conversation about how they felt white people had really created superior civilizations.”

These ongoing flirtations with the far-right are not uncommon in today’s Republican Party, but there’s something noteworthy about Gosar. Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, an Arizona journalist with a focus on far-right extremism, considers Gosar to be “unique among his caucus.” Unlike Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, who often generate controversy due to their loud and overly abhorrent comments and behavior, Gosar carefully “signals to those in the extreme,” MacDonald-Evoy explained.

Gosar’s social media output also continues to be littered with “America First” nods and propaganda. (As of right now, his Twitter bio’s location is set to “America First.”) These dog whistles may be innocuous or incoherent to some, but are clear nods to Fuentes fanboys and Groyper shitposters. Gosar’s minor criticism of Fuentes for “having a problem with his mouth,” made headlines, and he seems to have realized the optics of appearing directly alongside Fuentes, but he’s continued to show the movement that he’s engaged.

“His use of internet culture has given him a boost among groups like the Groypers and Patriot Front, which are made up largely of young men who are constantly online,” said MacDonald-Evoy. “Speaking in the right language shows an ‘in-the-know’ and not ‘co-opting’ of the language that I think the extreme parts of the right appreciate and some might not notice.”

These dog whistles are heard loud and clear among members of the far-right. Those activists, including the Groypers, have come to see Gosar as one of their own. After all, the congressman has no reason, besides an ideological one, to continue rubbing shoulders with, giving speeches to, and emboldening such a hateful faction of the right. Gosar repeatedly brushes off these controversies because, they reason, this must be who he is and what he believes. His apparent refusal to distance himself from Searle, or even acknowledge the report about his staffer, can be understood as another of these dog whistles. He sticks by Fuentes to further mainstream his movement’s vile politics within the already vile Republican Party — which is, at best, indifferent to Gosar’s white nationalist friends.

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