ORLANDO — Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said Saturday that he opposed “white racism,” hours after speaking at a far-right conference whose organizer spoke approvingly of the Capitol insurrection while delivering a white-nationalist speech.
“I want to tell you, I denounce … white racism,” Gosar said during a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “That’s not appropriate.”
He said later that he was referring to Friday night’s America First Political Action Conference, organized by 22-year-old online commentator Nick Fuentes, who rallied rioters outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Gosar was the only elected official to attend the Friday event, speaking after former congressman Steve King, R-Iowa, who lost a 2020 primary after party leaders abandoned him over a string of white-nationalist remarks.
Fuentes, who has been banned from some social media channels after making racist and anti-Semitic comments, accused mainstream pro-Trump Republicans of betraying the former president’s agenda and said America needed to protect its “White demographic core.” He ridiculed Gosar’s congressional colleagues and mocked the partial paralysis of Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.
In a brief interview after speaking at the CPAC panel Saturday, Gosar continued to distance himself from Fuentes’s remarks, which he said he had stayed in the room to watch.
“There’s no room for violence,” Gosar said when asked about the Capitol riots.
Gosar’s Friday night speech focused on social media censorship and immigration.
“I suggest that senators and members of Congress that fail to put America first should be held accountable at the ballot box,” Gosar said. “This is the era of America first, not some reincarnation of neocon control.”
Fuentes, appearing after Gosar, accused Black Lives Matter activists of wanting to create “a new racial caste system in this country, with Whites at the bottom,” adding that the country would cease to be America without a White majority.
“If America ceases to retain that English cultural framework and the influence of European civilization, if it loses its White demographic core and if it loses its faith in Jesus Christ, then this is not America anymore,” he said.
Fuentes was preceded onstage by a video with footage of the Capitol insurrection, which he defended, while adding that he did not personally enter the building.
“I saw hundreds of thousands of patriots surrounding the U.S. Capitol building, and I saw the police retreating, and we heard that the politicians voting on the fraudulent election had scurried to their underground tunnels away from the Capitol,” Fuentes said. “I said to myself: ‘This is awesome!’ ”
Fuentes said “we need a little bit more of that energy in the future,” then added that he disavowed “violence” and “vandalism.”
Gosar did not mention the Friday night conference by name from the CPAC stage, but in a short interview afterward, he said he was referring to Fuentes’s remarks.
Gosar, who had led Arizona Republicans in challenging the electoral vote on Jan. 6, said he had accepted the AFPAC invitation to reach an 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 said. “So why not take that energy and listen to what they’ve got to say?”
Asked whether he regretted attending the event, Gosar said “you don’t accomplish anything by isolating” and refusing to speak to some audiences.
“It’s always about the debate,” he said. “That’s how you grow.”