Rep. Paul Gosar Defends Appearing at Event Where Organizer Gave White Nationalist Speech

Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar appeared to defend his decision to speak Friday evening at the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), where organizer Nick Fuentes delivered a speech reflecting white nationalist ideas.

Speaking to The Washington Post following a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday morning, Gosar said he'd decided to speak at AFPAC to reach a wider audience of young conservatives. "We thought about it, and we thought: There is a group of young people that are becoming part of the election process, and becoming a bigger force," Gosar told the Post. "So why not take that energy and listen to what they've got to say?"

He also said that it's harder to accomplish things by isolating a group and that debate is "how you grow."

Despite seeming to defend why he appeared at AFPAC, Gosar appeared to try to distance himself from the event, where Fuentes expressed white nationalist views, early on during the CPAC panel. "Before I get to that, I wanna tell you: I denounce when we talk about 'white racism.' That's not appropriate. I believe in a strong immigration system—a legal immigration system," he said.

Rep. Gosar begins his CPAC talk by attempting to distance himself from white nationalist Nick Fuentes’ AFPAC conference, where he spoke last night. pic.twitter.com/1JNgIowY5A

— Zachary Petrizzo (@ZTPetrizzo) February 27, 2021

Fuentes, during his keynote AFPAC address on Friday, spoke for over an hour and played to white nationalist tendencies at certain points of his speech. "White people founded this country. This country wouldn't exist without white people, and white people are done being bullied," he said at one point.

Nick Fuentes at AFPAC II on who founded this country.
🎦: @NickJFuentes pic.twitter.com/AH3O6FaZM5

— America First Reels (@amfirstreels) February 27, 2021

Fuentes also criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, falsely claiming the activist movement wanted to create "a new racial caste system in this country, with whites at the bottom."

According to the Post, Gosar was a surprise speaker at AFPAC. He was not listed as a speaker on the AFPAC website. The Arizona congressman spoke about social media censorship and immigration. Other speakers listed online include conservative outlet BlazeTV's Jon Miller, conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, and former Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has been criticized for racist remarks in the past.

Fuentes hosts a podcast called America First. The Anti-Defamation League has identified him as a key figure for the white supremacist group the "Groyper Army."

California Rep. Ted Lieu appeared to call out Gosar on Twitter. He wrote that Gosar claimed "a health or pandemic safety reason for not being in DC for the COVID relief bill," but attended AFPAC instead.

Dear Representative @DrPaulGosar: Did you claim a health or pandemic safety reason for not being in DC for the COVID relief bill vote in order to speak at a conference with ties to white nationalism? Asking for a friend. https://t.co/NYs5RhLrnq

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 27, 2021

CPAC itself, meanwhile, is viewed by many as overly influenced by former President Donald Trump, with more traditionally conservative voices pushed aside. Former congressman and CPAC chair Mickey Edwards said in an interview with CNN on Friday that the conference was unrecognizable from when he was the chair. Rick Tyler, an author and conservative political analyst for MSNBC, spoke Saturday about how Trumpism has affected the conference. "That's what all these candidates—or all these elected officials on the stage—they all subordinate themselves to whatever Donald Trump thinks," he said on MSNBC.

Once a conservative event focused on policy ideas, @rickwtyler says #CPAC is now a conference fraught with white supremacy and none of the values of conservatism. “It’s a little like calling yourself a vegan while chewing on raw meat” #velshi pic.twitter.com/qxVvUAkXzC

— Velshi on MSNBC (@VelshiMSNBC) February 27, 2021

Newsweek reached out to Gosar's office for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Paul Gosar CPAC AFPAC
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Christopher Landau, former ambassador to Mexico, arrive for a panel discussion during the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 27 in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty