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House GOP Witness and Hate Group Leader Rejects White Nationalist Replacement Theory While the GOP Continues to Embrace

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CIS’ Jessica Vaughan Distanced Herself From GOP’s Dangerous ‘Invasion’ Rhetoric and Said She’s Never Used Conspiratorial Rhetoric. But She Lied To a Member of Congress, Because Her Tweets Say Otherwise

During a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing this week, GOP witness Jessica Vaughan claimed that she was unaware of the racist and antisemitic great replacement theory and that she hasn’t used the dangerous “invasion” rhetoric central to that white nationalist conspiracy theory. 

Why is this significant? First, Vaughan is lying about not using “invasion” rhetoric. She’s used this language, which has been linked to numerous mass murders, several times since 2016. Second, Vaughan is a staffer with the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies. So for a Tanton network member and GOP witness to distance themselves from great replacement theory – which is now an integral part of Republican speeches, ads, and campaigns – and then lie about never using language associated with it is a pretty big deal. It all happened under ferocious questioning from Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-IL).

“Do you believe in the great replacement theory?” Rep. Ramirez asked during a hearing by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Wednesday. “I don’t know what that is,” Vaughan claimed. “Can you explain it?” So Rep. Ramirez did, laying out how the replacement theory purports a conspiratorial plot that non-white immigrants are intentionally being brought into the U.S. to “disempower white voters to achieve a political agenda.” Rep. Ramirez said that central to that conspiracy theory is “invasion” rhetoric.

Vaughan quickly replied that she didn’t believe in that and then became outraged when Rep. Ramirez made the factual statement that Vaughan had used this “invasion” rhetoric. “I don’t use that term, it’s not appropriate,” Vaughan claimed. But that’s just not true. Vaughan has repeatedly amplified  “invasion” rhetoric in association with the border and migrants. We have the receipts:

But Vaughan isn’t alone. Ongoing research from America’s Voice has found that this once-fringe conspiracy theory has been adopted across the GOP, including by most Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who chairs the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is all but a card-carrying white nationalist and has frequently promoted the “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracy in addition to other frightening and violent rhetoric. But this trend is in fact widespread among the GOP: from the period covering August 2023 to December 2023, AV tracked nearly 700 instances of “invasion” and other nativist messaging from elected Republicans. So for Vaughan to lie and distance herself from this conspiracy theory – and, in turn, the Republican members who support it – is notable.

House Republicans have a long history with CIS and other Tanton network anti-immigrant groups, frequently inviting them as witnesses in the hope the group’s thin veneer of respectability as a supposed “think tank” adds some credibility to GOP lawmakers’ anti-immigrant hostility. CIS boasts a vile record, circulating white nationalist material over 2,000 times. Its executive director, Mark Krikorian, once said that Haiti was “so screwed up” because it “wasn’t colonized long enough.” Vaughan, meanwhile, has worked with the “notoriously antisemitic The American Free Press, a newspaper founded by Willis Carto and associated with Holocaust denial,” AV Political Associate Yuna Oh wrote last year. Vaughan also worked so closely with noted white nationalist Stephen Miller and the Trump administration that he praised her at a CIS event. 

“So in particular, let me thank Jessica Vaughan, who is seated back there,” said Miller, who at the time was aide to then-Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. “There is no one in America who knows more about immigration enforcement than Jessica Vaughan.”

Well, this week saw Miller’s ally claiming she knows nothing about the toxic conspiracy theory embraced by Republican officials, candidates – and Miller – and one that has been tied to numerous mass casualty events. “If you’re in any doubt about actual fascist creep in the United States, know that the Great Replacement was — until a couple years ago — considered an absurd & deeply racist conspiracy theory,” Will Carless, extremism and emerging issues correspondent at USA Today, recently observed. “A sitting US cabinet member was just impeached based on essentially the same notion.” That a member of an anti-immigrant hate group wants nothing to do with the GOP’s main organizing strategy is telling.

In her remarks on Wednesday, Rep. Ramirez, who was sitting in for Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), laid out the seriousness of this conspiratorial rhetoric and the direct harm it poses to families and communities all across the nation.

“Shooters have cited [this language] in their manifestos,” Rep. Ramirez said, pointing to racist mass terror attacks in El Paso, Buffalo, Poway, and Pittsburg. “And I believe that words matter, and the great replacement rhetoric is harmful. It dehumanizes millions of people seeking safety, protection and refuge. It dehumanizes people like my mother, Maria Ramirez, who crossed the border pregnant with me. And it dehumanizes me. Dehumanizing rhetoric endangers us all, and we must categorically condemn it.”