During an appearance on Meet The Press this past weekend, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) shockingly refused to commit to certifying the results of the 2024 presidential election. The third-ranking House Republican deflected when host Kristen Welker asked if she would certify the 2024 results regardless of winner, instead resurrecting debunked claims around the 2020 election. When pressed a second time by Welker, Stefanik again refused to commit, and suggested the results may not be up to the American people but instead extreme House Republicans.
“We will see if this is a legal and valid election,” Stefanik stated, unequivocally doubling down on her commitment to bigoted conspiracies that undermine our ability to live up to the promise of American democracy.
Stefanik didn’t stop there, traveling deeper down the bigoted conspiratorial rabbit hole as she sought to defend indicted former President Donald Trump. When asked directly, Stefanik refused to condemn him for repeatedly parroting the horrific rhetoric of Adolf Hitler. Stefanik instead doubled-down on Trump’s incendiary and dangerous claims that immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the nation, even after positioning herself as a supposed foe of antisemitism amid the right-wing’s disingenuous war on college presidents.
“This is language that the Biden campaign, others says ‘is parroting Adolf Hitler.’ Are you comfortable with former President Trump’s comments?” Welker questioned. “Stefanik fumed at first,” the Daily Beast reports, and instead blamed the media for “reiterating whatever the talking points the Biden campaign is giving.” But it was actually historians and experts who have pointed out the direct line between the rhetoric of the leading 2024 Republican presidential candidate and dictators like Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
But not only did Stefanik refuse to condemn Trump for sounding just like Hitler, she also used the platform to spread debunked disinformation regarding the fentanyl crisis and the southern border. While the prevalence of synthetic fentanyl is an urgent issue driving the grim record-breaking number of overdose deaths in America, this very serious crisis is not an immigration issue, as this drug is largely trafficked through ports of entry by US citizens, America’s Voice Political Director Zachary Mueller has previously noted. But Stefanik didn’t let the facts dictate her claims on Sunday.
“Our border crisis is poisoning Americans through fentanyl,” she claimed. “It is poisoning people including in my district, who are dying from overdoses of fentanyl, and you know why? Because of Joe Biden’s wide open border, the executive actions he took on day one.” The Daily Beast reports that when asked by Welker “if that meant she stood by Trump’s words, Stefanik said ‘yes’ …”
When Stefanik is talking about a “border crisis” or spreading disinformation about “open borders,” she is dog-whistling to invoke fear of non-white migrants. Stefanik knew her audience, the more mainstream cable news viewer tuning into Meet The Press. We shouldn’t be deceived by her rhetoric here, because she is deliberately choosing her words to make a horrific politics of division more palatable to a wider audience. This is the core of strategic racism – hiding racist appeals in coded or roundabout language. She may try to muddy the waters, but failing to denounce rhetoric associated with Hitler is pretty clear.
Moreover, rhetoric like that used by Stefanik makes the situation worse. She combines the very real pain and suffering wrought by the fentanyl crisis as justification for supporting Trump’s immigration comments, which makes no logical sense. She uses the TV appearance to paint a larger target on the backs of immigrant communities as the dehumanized perpetrators of the unrelated fentanyl crisis. The downstream dangers of this are hard to overstate.
On top of it all, on both immigration policy and this drug crisis, Stefanik and her GOP caucus have no actual solutions. Republicans have already said the quiet part out loud, admitting they don’t want to address immigration if it’ll help Democrats. “Let me tell you, I’m not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat and to help Joe Biden’s approval rating,” Texas Rep. Troy Nehls said according to CNN. “I will not help the Democrats try to improve this man’s dismal approval ratings. I’m not going to do it.” Fox News Channel host and anti-immigrant zealot Laura Ingraham is advising House Republicans to reject any potential compromise to fund the war against Putin in Ukraine or keep the government open if it includes Senate proposals on immigration or border security.
Meanwhile, on fentanyl, most Republicans voted against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included funding for improved screening technology.
Stefanik’s actions are shocking, but not surprising as she came to Congress pitching herself as a moderate but in full public view attached her political star to Trump becoming one the most vocal proponents of this dystopian vision. And she has used Trump’s attacks on his political enemies to rise within the ranks of her party.
“Stefanik’s evolution from a moderate to a MAGA extremist began when she saw an opportunity to vigorously oppose Trump’s first impeachment,” America’s Voice Political Associate Yuna Oh has previously written. “By his second impeachment, she had fully embraced his election denialism. Turning her newfound Trump sycophancy into a bid for leadership, Stefanik ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) for the third-ranking House GOP leadership position. Cheney refused to buckle to the Big Lie and the failed coup attempt, both of which Stefanik eagerly defended.”
Some of this de-evolution has included promoting echoes of the deadly, anti-Semetic conspiracy falsely claiming that Jewish people, Democrats, and others are intentionally sparking an “invasion” of non-white migrants to replace white Americans. Once confined to the dark corners of the internet, this conspiracy theory is now promoted by top Republicans, from Donald Trump on down.
But when reporting revealed that the racist gunman who murdered ten Black Americans in New York state in 2022 had cited this same exact conspiracy theory, Stefanik dared to feign outrage.
“She even sent out a fundraising email just two days after the attack claiming that she was the true victim for being questioned about her rhetoric,” Oh noted. Stefanik had initially promoted echoes of this deadly conspiracy theory to more than one million Facebook followers in August 2021, then again the following month. Stefanik continued her despicable assertions the following spring, falsely claiming just days before the May 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo that our nation was under “invasion.” The real victim here was not Stefanik, but instead the ten Americans who had been simply going about their lives at a neighborhood grocery store that terrible day in May.
Nor should it be lost on any of us that despite refusing to apologize for promoting this antisemitic conspiracy theory, and despite refusing to condemn Trump for sounding just like Adolf Hitler, Stefanik has spent the last several weeks pretending that she cares about antisemetic hate speech at college campuses. While the nation has indeed seen an alarming rise in both antisemetic and anti-Muslim incidents since the start of the Israel-Gaza conflict, the record clearly shows that Stefanik is in no way a good faith broker here.
Stefanik’s response to Welker “was a defense of Nazis just weeks after her success at accusing liberals of anti-semitism,” Emptywheel’s Marcy Wheeler commented. “But it was also a willful rejection of rational argument, in favor of blurting the key words she knows will win her favor from Trump.”
This included claiming during the Meet The Press interview that Trump has the “strongest record when it comes to supporting the Jewish people,” the Daily Beast noted. But it was just over a year ago when Trump hosted notorious Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes at his Mar-a-Lago resort, “demonstrating his continued willingness to associate with figures who have well-publicized antisemitic views as he embarks on another White House run,” CNN reported at the time.
Fuentes is so toxic that both Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, two of the most extreme members of the GOP House caucus, tried to distance themselves in the ensuing backlash despite their own ties to the Holocaust denier. Trump, meanwhile, claimed he “never heard of the man.” That line might work when it comes to celebrity feuding, but not when you’re the leader of the political party where the views of Fuentes and other extremists are increasingly the norm, and not an outlier.
“It is hard to overstate the significance of the near complete adoption by the GOP and their activist base of viewing immigration & the border through the white nationalist replacement & invasion theory,” Mueller wrote in a social media post. “This isn’t just about migrants or hate its about justifying an racist authoritarian state.”
“Any Republican House candidate who takes her endorsement this year should have to own this as well. If you take support from someone espousing dehumanizing conspiratorial rhetoric that courts racist political violence you too own those consequences,” he continued.