tags: , Blog

Republicans Provide a Platform for Hate, Conspiracies, and White Nationalism with Choice of Committee Hearing Witnesses

Share This:

Republicans have used their narrow majority in the House to call congressional hearings ostensibly about the border that they have instead used to amplify white nationalist conspiracy theories and other pernicious nativist disinformation. Several of the witnesses Republicans have already invited to testify at these hearings have described migrants seeking asylum and safety as an “invasion,” which refers to the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory and echoes the racist conspiracy tied to multiple terrorist attacks. Three of their witnesses have worked with a hate group and two are part of far-right sheriffs’ organization with close ties to the Oath Keepers, white supremacists, and election denialism. Republicans are providing a platform and their stamp of approval for hate and dangerous conspiracies by inviting these individuals to participate in these hearings. 

The witnesses set to testify in the House Judiciary Committee field hearing in Yuma on February 23 are but the latest example of this concerning pattern.

  • Jonathan Lines, a Yuma County Supervisor and the former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, has repeatedly described migrants seeking asylum and safety as an “invasion.”
  • Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot is a part of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a far-right organization with ties to white supremacists, the Oath Keepers, and Wilmot was personally active in their election denial activity.  

Wilmot is the second CSPOA-aligned Sheriff the House Judiciary Committee has invited this year, after they invited Sheriff Mark Dannels to testify in their first hearing on February 1. It is worth noting that Richard Mack, who founded CSPOA in 2011, was on the board of Oath Keepers, whose founder, Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy for his involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. CSPOA’s current CEO Sam Bushman hosted Rhodes on his show Liberty Roundtable on January 5. Bushman also syndicates a different white nationalist show. One of CSPOA’s current advisory board members is Michael Peroutka, who was a member of the racist neo-Confederate organization the League of the South. In the summer of 2022 the CSPOA issued a press release pushing the white nationalist “invasion” conspiracy

This language of invasion refers to the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory. A racist fiction that has been the inspiration for multiple acts of political violence and domestic terrorism over the last several years. It was chanted in the streets of Charlottesville in 2017, posted online before a man murdered 11 in Pittsburgh in 2018, shared in racist screeds before the murder in Poway and the murder of 23 in El Paso in 2019, believed by those who attacked the Capitol in 2021, and copied by the gunman who killed ten people in Buffalo in May 2022. Dr. Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, draws a direct connection between the rhetoric and the violence, saying, “When migrants are described as invaders, that leads to violence,” she said. “Because how else does one stop an invasion?”   

This racist conspiracy is not new, but was once confined to the dark corners of the internet.  As Dr. Elizabeth Yates, Senior Researcher on Antisemitism at Human Rights First, notes, “10 years ago, you would have seen this rhetoric on neo-Nazi websites that you now hear from members of Congress.” As recently as 2019, then GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy removed then Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from his committee assignments because of his use of white nationalist language. Now, GOP members are amplifying this rhetoric in multiple congressional hearings and inviting multiple witnesses who have also peddled white nationalist conspiracy theories. 

“I’m frankly just astounded that you could have so many political figures on the right parroting ideas that have led to mass murder,” said Beirich

But House Republicans have developed a disturbing pattern at the beginning of 2023 to mainstream these violent ideas. On February 15, two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees invited National Border Patrol Council union president Brandon Judd who had previously been called out for amplifying the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory. Judd also pals around with Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). And he guest starred in a Jim Lamon Arizona Republican Senate primary western shootout-style ad in February 2022, where the candidate shoots at actors portraying President Biden, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Mark Kelly.  As a reminder, Sen. Kelly’s wife was shot in a horrific act of political violence in 2011, and Speaker Pelosi’s husband was also horrifically attacked in his home later in 2022 as a domestic terrorist sought out the then-Speaker. As Will Carless, who covers extremism for USA Today, noted on Twitter, “That @CBP are ok with the top union official espousing a white supremacist talking point is remarkable itself. That the same man is appearing before Congress is a whole new level of questionable. That it’s happening the same day as Gendron’s [the Buffalo shooter] sentencing is wild.”

The prior House Judiciary hearing on February 1 also saw Republican invitations to two witnesses who had promoted the white nationalist “invasion” conspiracy theory Sheriff Mark Daniels of Cochise County, Arizona, and Judge Dale Lynn Carruthers. 

  • Beyond being a CSPOA-aligned sheriff, Mark Daniels is close with the hate group FAIR and repeatedly pushed the “invasion” conspiracy. 
  • Dale Lynn Carruthers was one of the first local officials in Texas who declared her county was suffering an “invasion.”  In a press conference announcing the declaration, Carruthers invoked the dehumanizing language of an “invasion” over a dozen times. And in Carruthers’ submitted testimony she invoked the “invasion” conspiracy twice.  She is also close with the hate group FAIR.  

And in all three of the prior House Committee hearings ostensibly about the border, Republican members have amplified the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory, including the prior House Judiciary hearing. 

When Republicans were confronted in the House Oversight Committee with the fact that some of their members were using the hearings to amplify the great replacement theory by Ranking Member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) Republican leadership pointedly refused to condemn the racist conspiracy theory. “The MAGA forces in the GOP have chosen to abandon the strong pro-immigration stance of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan and instead spread fear about a foreign invasion, dangerous paranoia about the racist and antisemitic ‘Great Replacement’ mythology and disinformation about fentanyl,” said Raskin. 

Unfortunately, Republicans are setting themselves up to continue this disturbing pattern. The announcement from the House Homeland Security Committee that there will be a hearing next week marks the fifth House Committee hearing in five weeks, ostensibly about the border. Chairman Rep. Mark Green has amplified the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory, as have most of the Republican members on the committee. It is likely they will follow their colleagues and invite witnesses connected to hate and extremism, while the members use the hearing to further amplify the deadly racist conspiracies.