Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) faces backlash after he stated he was unable to attend the coronavirus aid bill vote in Washington on Friday due to safety concerns related to the pandemic, yet traveled to Orlando, Florida, that day as keynote speaker for the “America First Political Action Conference,” organized by Nicholas Fuentes, who has espoused white nationalism.
In a letter to Congress dated Feb. 26, Gosar wrote, “I continue to be unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency.”
Gosar, despite having previously railed against the proxy voting process, designated Rep. Yvette Herrell to cast his congressional votes.
On Friday night, Gosar was seen on social media speaking at the far-right AFPAC event, immediately following Fuentes, who participated in the 2017 white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville and attended the Jan. 6 “Stop The Steal” rally.
During his speech Friday, Fuentes warned “white people are done being bullied” and that if the U.S. “loses its white demographic core, then this is not America anymore.”
On Saturday morning, Gosar appeared on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference and attempted to distance himself from the AFPAC event he spoke at on Friday night, stating, “I denounce when we talk about white racism. That’s not appropriate.”
Gosar was one of 13 House Republicans who voted by proxy on the COVID-19 relief bill Friday, citing the ongoing pandemic, despite attending CPAC. However, Gosar is the only one also to attend the America First Political Action Conference. The speaker that followed Gosar at AFPAC was former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who in 2019 questioned why “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” are considered offensive terms, which led to the end of his political career. When Fuentes took the stage, not only did he avow white nationalist ideology, he also reportedly mocked Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) for needing a wheelchair, claiming Cawthorn couldn’t “stand up” for his constituents. According to a Daily Beast report, the FBI is investigating a large bitcoin payment made to Fuentes before the deadly Jan. 6 riots and has since had his bank accounts frozen by federal authorities. Forbes has reached out to Mr. Gosar for comment but did not immediately hear back.
Last month, the New York Times reported that Jim Arroyo, a leader of the Yavapai County chapter of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militant group, posted a video on YouTube on November 22, 2020, claiming Gosar came to one of their meetings and told the group that the U.S. was in a “civil war” and predicted it would become violent. According to Newsweek, Gosar has neither confirmed nor denied claims that he met with the Oath Keepers.