Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that there is no place in the Republican Party for “white supremacists or anti-Semitism” after two House Republicans participated in a conference organized by a white nationalist who encouraged a chant supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
McConnell issued a statement in response to reports that Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul A. Gosar of Arizona addressed the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) in Orlando. The event was organized by Nicholas Fuentes.
Fuentes, a white-nationalist activist, rose to prominence after attending the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and then dropping out of Boston University because of “threats” he said he received, according to the Anti-Defamation League. He once hosted the “America First” podcast.
“There’s no place in the Republican Party for white supremacists or anti-Semitism,” said McConnell, who did not identify the lawmakers.
McConnell’s statement comes a week after Greene told right-wing podcast host Alex Jones that McConnell and his wife, former transportation secretary Elaine Chao, are “fully bought and paid for by China.”
“Mitch McConnell, he lies to your face,” Greene told Jones. “He says he’s a Republican. He’s the leader in the Senate of the Republican Party, but he’s married to Elaine Chao, and they’re fully bought and paid for by China on record. And everyone knows it, but no one does anything about it.”
Chao, who served as transportation secretary in the Trump administration and as labor secretary under the George W. Bush administration, was born in Taiwan. She was the first Asian American woman to be a member of a president’s Cabinet.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a 2012 nominee for president, was harsher in his criticism of Greene and Gosar.
“Morons. I have morons on my team,” Romney said Sunday.
Romney on Sunday called racist views “evil.”
“There’s no place in either political party for this white nationalism or racism. It’s simply wrong,” Romney told Bash. He added: “Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar — I don’t know them, but I’m reminded of that old line from the ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ movie where one character says, ‘Morons. I’ve got morons on my team.’ ”
“And I have to think anybody that would sit down with white nationalists and speak at their conference was certainly missing a few IQ points,” Romney added.
Greene attended the AFPAC conference in person, according to CBS News, while Gosar addressed attendees in a 30-second prerecorded video. Gosar attended the event last year, The Washington Post reported.
Before introducing Greene, Fuentes told the crowd, “Now they’re going on about Russia and Vladimir Putin is Hitler — they say that’s not a good thing.” Fuentes also asked the crowd to “give a round of applause for Russia” and responded, “Absolutely,” as attendees chanted “Putin! Putin!”
After Fuentes introduced Greene, she told the crowd they were “canceled Americans,” HuffPost reported.
“You’ve been handed the responsibility to fight for our Constitution and stand for our freedoms, and stop the Democrats, who are the Communist Party of the United States of America,” Greene said.
Romney wasn’t the only conservative to criticize Greene for her Friday speech, given hours before she addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was also held last week in Orlando. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee and Romney’s niece, said, “White supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party,” comments Romney cited on “State of the Union.”
Romney also denounced former president Donald Trump and other Republicans for complimenting Putin in what the senator called “almost treasonous” comments.
The Republican Jewish Coalition quickly condemned Greene’s attendance at AFPAC as “appalling and outrageous.” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) criticized what he called “racial politics” but said he “completely disagrees” with Greene speaking at AFPAC, CBS News reported.
On Sunday, Greene defended herself to CBS News, denouncing the attacks against her as “identity politics” and an attempt to “cancel” her. She also said she didn’t know about Fuentes’s views and spoke at the conference not because she agreed with the organizers but to engage with an audience about what she believes.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m speaking to Democrat union members or 1,200 young conservatives who feel cast aside and marginalized by society,” Greene said in a statement to CBS News. “The Pharisees in the Republican Party may attack me for being willing to break barriers and speak to a lost generation of young people who are desperate for love and leadership.”
Greene has a history of making inflammatory comments. In 2018, she blamed California’s wildfires on a “laser” beamed from space in a Facebook post that surfaced last year, Forbes reported. Last year, she equated safety measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus with the Holocaust, The Post reported. Before she was elected in 2020, she claimed the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a hoax, according to NPR.
Romney slammed her for those comments, too, telling reporters in February 2021 that the Republican Party “should have nothing to do with Marjorie Taylor Greene,” NPR reported.
“It’s important for us to separate ourselves from the people that are in the wacky weeds,” he said, “and if we don’t, then our opposition tries to brand us with their image and with their point of view.”