Northwest Florida U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz said he made a “poor decision” back in January when he invited controversial alt-right blogger Charles Johnson to be his guest at President Trump’s State of the Union address.
Apparently all was forgotten by this summer, because Johnson – who once solicited donations on Twitter to help “take out” a civil rights protester – appeared at a fundraiser for Gaetz on a yacht in Newport Beach, California.
This revelation comes via Mother Jones reporter David Corn, who writes that Southern California GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher was also at the July 20 fundraiser and spoke on behalf of Gaetz.
Gaetz, 36, is a heavy favorite to be reelected to his conservative-leaning Panhandle district in November. He has quickly gained fame in his first term in office on Capitol Hill for his frequent cable news appearances, where he has been a passionate defender of President Trump on the Russia investigation. Before being elected to serve in Washington in 2016, he served in the state House from 2010-2016.
Gaetz’s decision to invite Johnson to be his guest at the State of the Union drew controversy because Johnson has a reputation for outlandish comments that goes back years. In May of 2017, POLITICO reported that Twitter banned him after solicited donations to help “take out” a civil-rights activist who had been protesting police shootings in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.
Johnson also denied the Holocaust in a session on Reddit’s alt-right section (since deleted but captured here) earlier in 2017, and when asked about it he said, “I do not and never have believed the six million figure.”
He later claimed the transcript of the Reddit exchange was fake, though he also acknowledged that the comment did “reflect statements I made but it does not reflect my views on the Holocaust.”
Gaetz said at the time that he was unaware of Johnson’s history, and told the Daily Beast that he only provided a ticket to the speech after Johnson “showed up at my office” the day of the State of the Union address. Gaetz said that the only reason he even had an extra ticket was because his father, former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, was ill and couldn’t attend.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement back in February criticizing Gaetz for inviting Johnson to the president’s speech, and urged him to discontinue any association and to repudiate his views “immediately.”
“Your inattention – or uncaring attitude – about Johnson’s record of bigotry and harassment is shocking,” the Anti-Defamation League said in its statement.
When asked for comment today, an Anti-Defamation League spokesman sent the Phoenix the following statement:
“Charles C. Johnson is a known Holocaust denier, who has suggested the number of Jewish victims was inflated and has posited that neither the Auschwitz concentration camp nor the gas chambers ever existed.
The Anti-Defamation League is extremely troubled by reports that Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly hosted Johnson at a recent fundraiser. ADL previously called on Gaetz to discontinue his associations with Johnson and to publicly repudiate his views after it was revealed Johnson was Gaetz’s guest at President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address.
We renew those calls in light of this new report, as it is completely inappropriate for a sitting U.S. member of Congress to continue to knowingly associate with an anti-Semite and bigot like Charles Johnson.”
The Phoenix reached out to Gaetz’ office for comment, but they did not reply to our request.