Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a conservative firebrand with a checkered past that includes a DUI arrest, invited a Holocaust-denying alt-right activist to President Trump’s first State of the Union address, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Chuck Johnson, a self-described “investigative journalist” who espouses white supremacist views, caused an uproar when he was spotted in the congressional chamber ahead of Trump’s SOTU address Tuesday night.
Questions swirled about who could have invited the right-wing blogger, who was permanently banned from Twitter in 2015 after expressing doubts about the scope of the Holocaust and launching an online campaign to “take out” prominent Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson.
On Wednesday afternoon, a spokeswoman for Rep. Gaetz confirmed to the Daily News that he invited Johnson.
Chuck Johnson, the founder of GotNews, appears on InfoWars in a video posted to YouTube on Aug. 27, 2017.
The invite — first reported by the Daily Beast — was offered to Johnson after he “showed up at my office” just hours before Trump’s speech, Gaetz said. The 35-year-old congressman had initially planned on giving the ticket to his father but, after he fell sick with bronchitis, he gave it to Johnson instead.
Johnson declined to comment on the nature of how he got invited, but told The News over the phone that Gaetz was just one of several Republicans who had offered him a ticket.
“Let’s just say that I was down to be supportive of the President and I enjoyed being there,” Johnson said, declining to reveal who the other Republicans were.
Johnson, who has a documented habit of spreading inaccurate and controversial reports via his website, also expressed surprise at why people were so interested in him attending Trump’s SOTU while “there was no interest whatsoever with the illegal aliens who were attending.”
Johnson said he “enjoyed” Trump’s first SOTU.
(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Johnson’s comments echoed those of GOP Rep. Paul Gosar, who asked U.S. Capitol Police to arrest and deport so-called Dreamers — immigrants brought into the country illegally as children — who were invited by Democrats to attend Trump’s Tuesday night speech.
Gaetz, who recently called for the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller, is a staunch Trump ally and recently flew on Air Force One together with the President. His hardline conservative views have landed him in some questionable places. This week, he made an appearance on the conspiracy theory-touting InfoWars show, urging Congress to declassify a controversial and widely disputed memo that alleges that the FBI improperly spied on the Trump campaign.
Despite his white supremacist ties, Johnson has also been somewhat influential in Trump’s orbit. Articles published on his GotNews website have found its way to the President’s desk and, last April, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reportedly spoke to Johnson on the phone about Trump’s pledge to build a wall with Mexico.