GOP rep defends inviting alt-right activist to the State of the Union

GOP rep defends inviting alt-right activist to the State of the Union

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGOP Mueller critic says Flynn contacted him during special counsel probe: report 2020 Dem Seth Moulton calls for expanding cannabis access for veterans Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group MORE (R-Fla.) on Thursday defended his decision to invite an activist with ties to the alt-right movement to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE's State of the Union address. 

The Republican congressman told Fox Business Network's "Cavuto Coast to Coast" that he did not know Chuck Johnson was tied to various figures within the alt-right community. 

The congressman said the ticket was originally meant for his own father, who was sick and unable to make it to the event. 

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"I met Chuck just briefly before allowing him to snag a ticket that was at our office, 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 but I did not know he was as perhaps infamous and controversial as he was when he came by and got a free ticket," Gaetz said.  

"He is not guilty of the things that some people have charged him of as it relates to those claims. Look, he’s a controversial figure. There were 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 on the left who you spend time with, learn more about, understand their viewpoint," he said. 

Gaetz said that U.S. Capitol Police alerted him when they spoke to Johnson about an unrelated matter, which Gaetz said did not deter him from allowing Johnson to attend the address.   

"He was a polite and just an entirely appropriate guest, I thought.”

Johnson heads a crowdfunding site that has garnered tens of thousands of dollars for legal fees related to the white supremacist website the Daily Stormer and other figures in the alt-right community.

The activist said he had received invitations from several lawmakers, but accepted Gaetz's because "he's into stuff on the issues that I care about," such as marijuana and the cryptocurrency known as bitcoin.