“We’re in it. We just haven’t started shooting at each other yet,” replied Republican Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona when asked by members of the Oath Keepers if the United States was headed for a civil war.
The statement was videotaped and distributed by the right-wing militia. This call to arms incited the group to participate in the deadly Electoral College Riots at the US Capitol on January 6th. This video is just one instance that is prompting scrutiny of the links between Congress members and various organizations and movements that espouse far-right beliefs.
Nearly 150 House Republicans supported Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen from him. But Mr. Gosar and a handful of other Republican members of the House had deeper ties to extremist groups who pushed violent ideas and conspiracy theories and whose members were prominent among those who stormed the halls of Congress to stop certification of President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory.
Their ranks include Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, was seen by leaders of the Stop the Steal movement as an inspiration and has spoken at events hosted by extremists, including one at which a founder of the Oath Keepers called for hanging Senator John McCain.
Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado has close connections to militia groups, including the Three Percenters, an extremist offshoot of the gun rights movement whose members were among those who entered the Capitol on January 6th. Also, Boebert has been accused of giving tours of The Capitol to a large group on the eve of the Electoral College Riots; many people believe this group was comprised of violent insurrectionists.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents were among the most visible of those who stormed the building. She appeared at a rally with militia groups.
Before being elected to Congress last year, Ms. Greene used social media in 2019 to endorse executing top Democrats and has suggested that the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was a staged “false flag” attack.
Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida appeared last year at an event also attended by members of the Proud Boys, another extremist organization being investigated by the FBI.
These representatives followed the lead of disgraced former president Donald Trump, who refused to condemn white supremacy, stating “there were good people on both sides” after the murder of a peaceful protester in Charlottesville, Virginia. A man who during a presidential debate made a goodwill gesture to the Proud Boys, telling them to “stand back and stand by.” And who said QAnon members– who have been charged with murder, domestic terrorism, planned kidnappings, and, most recently, storming the Capitol – as “people that love our country,” adding that “they do supposedly like me.”
In signaling either overt or tacit support, these Republicans provide legitimacy and publicity to extremist groups who pose a legitimate threat to the United States’ stability. Though all representatives have in one form denied supporting these groups, their actions speak louder than their words, and they are visibly exchanging the good of the country for the allure of power.