Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar surveyed the crowd as he settled in at the podium for the Feb. 26 headlining speech at the America First Political Action Conference, an event organized by a young white nationalist.
“Wow, what a group,” Gosar, a Republican from Prescott, told the crowd in Orlando, Fla., launching into a speech in which he railed against the “deep state,” talked about the importance of building an impenetrable wall along America’s southern border and how “cancel culture” is a greater concern than the climate crisis.
When Gosar finished, the event concluded with a 67-minute speech by 22-year-old white nationalist Nick Fuentes, the conference organizer, who called the Jan. 6 riots “awesome” and demanded elected leaders like Gosar enact protections for the country’s “white demographic core.”
Gosar was the only elected representative to speak at the conference. Other speakers included Vincent James Foxx, a propagandist for white supremacists online who creates compilations of racist fist fights, and former Rep. Steve King who was repudiated by most of his fellow congressional Republicans after an interview with The New York Times in which he wondered why terms like “white supermacist” have become “offensive.”
Gosar attempted to distance himself from Fuentes and his speaking engagement, saying the next day that he denounces “white racism” and that he attended the event to reach a younger conservative voter base, according to The Washington Post.
However, Gosar has been popular with Fuentes and other extremists for years.
“Sounds like Paul Gosar is a good guy, I hadn’t heard of him before,” a user in an Identity Ervopa Discord chat said in January 2018. The leaked chat logs were obtained by non-profit news outlet Unicorn Riot and contain information on how many far-right groups organized the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and also reveal how some white supremacists spoke about other Arizona lawmakers.
Identity Evropa is a hate group that has rebranded itself as the Foundation for American Society in Arizona whose founder spoke at the first AFPAC event last year.
“Paul Gosar is now a confirmed groyper,” a user in a discord chat said in February. Groypers are white nationalists and far-right activists who often troll conservatives who they feel are not extreme enough. Though loosely organized and members of many different groups, groypers are almost all followers of Fuentes.
One of the main goals of groypers is to push conservatives in a white nationalist direction. and one of their strategies is by presenting their views in a mainstream appearance or within mainstream organizations.
“The more diversity you have, the less they can call you racist. This is very advantageous, the consultants tell me,” Fuentes said during his speech at AFPAC.
Fuentes created AFPAC as a response to the Conservative Political Action Conference — the events happen in the same city on the same days — and he and others attempted to crash CPAC this year, but were removed.
Fuentes used the occasion to deride CPAC and the LGBTQ community.
“We don’t have homosexuals speaking on stage,” Fuentes said to a group of supporters after being kicked out of CPAC. His followers began a chant that called the nearby police a homophobic slur, prompting Fuentes to smile and laugh.
Last year, CPAC hosted Brandon Straka, founder of the “Walk Away” movement, an openly gay “former liberal” who was recently arrested for his connections to the Capitol assault. It wasn’t until recently that CPAC even let gay conservatives set up a booth within its conference.
Gosar’s speech to AFPAC brought up themes important to those within the groyper movement such as a “shadowy elite” government, moving away from “neo-conservative” values and making the Republican party the party of “America First.”
“The choice is clear, America First or American decline,” Gosar said, at which point the crowd began chanting “Gosar!”
This isn’t the first time Gosar has attended a fringe event. In late 2019, Gosar attended “Trumpstock” in Golden Valley, which brought together QAnon performers and speakers.