As he faces continuing backlash for inviting Charles Johnson, a notorious far-right troll dubbed “the web’s worst journalist,” to Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) desperately tried to defend the invitation by lying about Johnson’s record.
“I met Chuck just briefly before allowing him to snag a ticket that was at our office,” Gaetz told Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto Thursday. “But some of the claims against Mr. Johnson are not accurate. He’s not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist, those are unfortunate characterizations of him. I did not know he was as infamous and controversial as he was when he came by.”
Gaetz, who himself is plenty familiar with far-right media figures, claimed he had no preexisting relationship with Johnson until he showed up at his office, and only had an extra ticket because his father had taken ill. “He [Johnson] is into stuff on the issue that I care about,” Gaetz told the Daily Beast. According to Johnson, those issues included “weed and bitcoin and Trump and animal welfare.”
But Gaetz is lying about the accuracy of the claims made against Johnson, who in fact has an extensive history of racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic statements. The 29-year-old started his career at the conservative site GotNews.com. In 2015, he had the honor of being the first person to be banned for life from Twitter for asking his followers to “take out DeRay McKesson,” a Black Lives Matter activist.
Since then, he’s also helped raise money for Andrew Anglin, an infamous neo-Nazi who runs the white supremacist website Daily Stormer and who is currently hiding out to avoid being served with deposition papers for a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center. On Reddit, Johnson has also said that significantly less than six million Jews died during the Holocaust. “I agree with David Cole about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real,” he said. “Why were their swimming pools there if it was a death camp?”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote an open letter to Gaetz expressing their “deep concern” about Johnson’s invitation to the State of the Union. “Any measure of due diligence by you or your staff would have revealed that Johnson is an extremist and a Holocaust denier,” ADL said in an open letter. “Your intention — or uncaring attitude — about Johnson’s record of bigotry and harassment is shocking.”
On behalf of ADL, I wrote to @RepMattGaetz expressing our deep concern over his decision to bring Charles C. Johnson, a known Holocaust denier & extremist, to the #SOTU. Read the full letter here: https://t.co/kIde7LlqCC pic.twitter.com/WKxkz5Wzij
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) February 1, 2018
Gaetz however, stated explicitly that he did not think Johnson had done anything wrong — despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
“He is not guilty of the things that some people have charged him of as it relates to those claims,” Gaetz said. “He’s a controversial figure, there are plenty of controversial folks at the State of the Union. I don’t just cavort with people who hold my views. I think there are people on the right and the left who you spend time with, learn more about [and] understand their viewpoint.”