On Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was supposed to be with other members of the committee on an all-expenses paid, week-long trip to Israel, according to one of the trip’s organizers.
Instead, Priebus was dodging questions from reporters on Capitol Hill after a meeting with Senate Republicans.
His appearance in Washington came as something of a surprise after the founder of the American Renewal Project, David Lane, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz last week that he would be taking Priebus, Priebus’ wife and about 60 other committee members to the Holy Land.
The Israel trip was first reported in December by Time. Lane’s American Renewal Project, a subsidiary of the social conservative group American Family Association, invited all 168 members of the RNC to travel to Israel from Jan. 31 to Jan. 8 on its dime.
So did Priebus cancel his plans to go on the trip, or did he never confirm his attendance in the first place?
An RNC spokeswoman did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment from TPM. The RNC hasn’t previously responded to multiple requests for comment from TPM about the trip to Israel.
Last week, AFA distanced itself from evangelical radio host Bryan Fischer, who had long served as its spokesman and director of issue analysis, as its sponsorship of the RNC trip came under scrutiny from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The SPLC has designated the AFA as a “hate group,” in part because Fischer has made a number of controversial statements about gays and Nazism in the past.
Politico reported Monday that officials at the Anti-Defamation League had also reached out to the RNC privately to warn that it would be “inappropriate” for committee members to travel with AFA.
Senior RNC official Sean Spicer told Politico that the trip was “an opportunity [for participants] to see some of the historical sights of Israel and to advance their understanding of U.S.-Israel relations.” He declined to name the committee members participating in the trip.