Republican congressman leads conference where organizers push for white nationalist rhetoric

Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was the surprise keynote speaker at a conference Friday night in Orlando, Florida, where speakers spread white nationalist rhetoric, organizers criticized the United States losing its “white demographic” and some called for greater commitment such as the anger that fueled the attack on the Capitol on January 6.

In the days leading up to the event and while trading tickets online in part using his Twitter account, Fuentes scoffed that there would be a special guest, who turned out to be Gosar. Other speakers Friday night included former Iowa Rep. Steve King, who is known for his long history of racist comments, and conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.

After speaking at the event, less than 12 hours later, Gosar participated in a panel Saturday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that is being held at the same time as AFPAC in the Orlando area. Speaking to a panel moderated by CPAC’s own Mercedes Schlapp, Gosar criticized the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

At the beginning of the panel, Gosar, spontaneously and without mentioning the event on Friday or Fuentes by name, tried to distance himself from “racism.”

“I want to tell you, I denounce when we talk about white racism. That is not appropriate. I believe in a strong immigration system,” Gosar said.

Neither Gosar nor CPAC representatives responded to ABC News requests for comment on the congressman’s speech at the AFPAC event.

On Friday night, Gosar’s opening speech was followed by a speech from Fuentes that was filled with white grievances and far-right anti-immigration rhetoric. “Yes [America] it loses its white demographic core … then this is no longer America, “the AFPAC founder told the crowd.

Fuentes continued to praise the attack on the Capitol, boasting that it caused a delay in the certification of the election results.

“While I was there in DC, outside the building, I saw hundreds of thousands of patriots surrounding the United States Capitol building and I saw the police leave … I said to myself, ‘This is incredible,'” Fuentes said. to the applause of the crowd.

And amid security concerns over threats to disrupt President Joe Biden’s long-awaited speech at a joint session of Congress, Fuentes encouraged more of the kind of commitment displayed by the rioters on January 6.

“Seeing that Capitol under siege, seeing the people of this country rise up and move toward DC with the gallows and the torches, we need a little more of that energy going forward,” he said.

Gosar, who was elected to Congress in 2011, has become one of the far-right Republicans in Washington. In January, The New York Times first reported that a prominent member of an Oath Keepers chapter in Arizona, Jim Arroyo, posted a video on YouTube claiming that Gosar attended one of their meetings and supported the group’s calls for a war. in the country.

“We had a meeting a couple of years ago where our Washington elected representative, Paul Gosar, came out and we asked him flatly at the time, ‘Do you think we are heading into a civil war?'” Arroyo said. “And his response was resounding: ‘We’re in on this. We just haven’t started shooting at each other yet.’ Gosar did not respond to the Times’ request for comment.

During the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Gosar posted a message on Twitter asking protesters not to “get carried away.” But on the right-leaning Parler service, he shared a much more sympathetic message, using the same photo of people scaling the Capitol walls and writing: “Americans are upset.”

Gosar’s standout appearance at Friday’s event will be another major test for a Republican Party that is being dragged between traditional conservatives and a growing radical extremist element as it searches for a way forward after the attack on the pro-Trump Capitol.

Earlier this month, the House passed a resolution that removed newly elected Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from her appointed committees due to a long history of pushing QAnon’s rhetoric and unfounded conspiracy theories, including that the Sandy shootings Hook and Parkland were organized as “false flag” operations. Green apologized to members of the House for their previous comments before the vote.

And former President Trump delivered the first blow of his revenge tour to the Republicans who voted to impeach him, backing Max Miller, a former Trump aide, in his main challenge against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), who was among the 10 Republicans in the House. vote for the impeachment.

Trump’s name was a running theme at Friday night’s event, and Fuentes also promised to target Republicans who weren’t loyal enough to the former president.

“He’s one of us,” Fuentes told the crowd.

The AFPAC event on Friday night marked one of the first major gatherings of far-right extremists since the January 6 insurrection. The event featured at least two people, Fuentes and AFPAC spokesman Vincent James Foxx, who were present near the Capitol building during the siege.

Fuentes, who has denied involvement in the assault on the Capitol, has been seen in video and photos at a demonstration outside the Capitol on January 6. In one video, Fuentes can be seen on a megaphone telling the crowd not to “leave this Capitol.” until Donald Trump is sworn in as president. “Foxx, who said Friday night,” We shouldn’t be afraid of the idea of ​​secession, “was photographed with Fuentes on January 6. Neither was charged in connection with the mutiny.

Fuentes, who attended the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, has a long history of making racist and anti-Semitic remarks. Since the Capitol uprising, a handful of America First supporters have been arrested for their role in the January 6 attack.

After spending parts of his speech Friday night celebrating the Capitol unrest, Fuentes at one point attempted to retract his comments.

“I reject all violence. I reject all vandalism. I respect that the government is sovereign over us,” he said, then added: “Okay, I think that will remain in court.”

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