Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) invited notorious right-wing internet troll and Holocaust denier Charles Johnson to be his guest at President Trump’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, according to a Daily Beast report.
Gaetz and Johnson provided the publication with conflicting accounts of how Johnson came to be Gaetz’s guest. The Florida congressman, who has played a leading role in pushing the conspiracy theory that the “deep state” is out to undermine Trump, told the publication that he doesn’t know Johnson. Gaetz said Johnson used one of his SOTU tickets only after his father fell ill and couldn’t go.
Gaetz told The Daily Beast that he and Johnson had no pre-existing relationship and that he provided him with a ticket to the speech after Johnson “showed up at my office” the day of the speech. The congressman said he had an extra ticket after his father came down with bronchitis and couldn’t make it. Johnson just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
But Johnson told the Daily Beast that he and Gaetz were introduced by another members of Congress, and that he “took Gaetz’s invitation” because “he’s into stuff on the issues that I care about.”
Johnson was permanently banned from Twitter in after he posted a tweet in 2015 soliciting donations from people to “take out” activist DeRay McKesson, who at the time was in the news because of his support for Black Lives Matter.
A 2017 Jezebel piece provides more background on Johnson.
His site, GotNews, is known for stories that make wild, often provably false allegations. Johnson has claimed that both President Obama and Emmanuel Macron are gay, wrongly identified the woman he thought was “Jackie” of the UVA scandal, and has, overall, demonstrated what Forbes called a “disregard for facts.” Gawker once called him “the web’s worst journalist.”
On GotNews, he’s referred to an alleged mob of Hispanic men protesting a Trump rally as “savages,”has repeatedly referred to Black Live Matter supporters as “thugs” and posted numerous stories alleging criminal acts by people he claims were affiliated with BLM. He’s also appeared on a podcast hosted by The Right Stuff, a proudly and profoundly anti-Semitic show hosted by white nationalist Mike Enoch.
On Reddit, Johnson once argued that the number of Jews in the Holocaust was much less than the accepted number of six million. He also questioned the existence of gas chambers, writing, “I agree with David Cole about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real. Why were their swimming pools there if it was a death camp?”
Nonetheless, Johnson was remains a well-connected figure in Republican politics. Last April, he discussed the Trump administration’s plans for a border wall on the phone with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And in October, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) brought Johnson along to a meeting he had with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Politico reported that during the early days of Trump’s presidency, he was occasionally given printed out stories from Johnson’s website to read.
It’s not surprising that Johnson’s fondness for conspiracy theories wouldn’t bother Gaetz. Earlier this week, Gaetz joined the show of America’s foremost conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, to tout a conspiracy theory about purported “deep state” efforts to undermine President Trump.
At one point, Gaetz complained to Jones that he’s called a conspiracy theorist.
“We’re called conspiracy theorists because we see this cabal right in front of us. We’re able to aggregate these data points and show what was really going on,” Gaetz said to Jones, who once argued that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax.
Gaetz told the Daily Beast that he’s open to staying in touch with Johnson.
“He has my number,” he said.