We look at a newly confirmed direct connection between a white supremacist leader and a staffer for one of Trump’s staunchest supporters in Congress. The digital director for right-wing Arizona Congressmember Paul Gosar has been revealed as a prominent follower of neo-Nazi online influencer Nick Fuentes. Gosar himself is linked to organizers of the January 6 insurrection and was censured for posting an animated video on social media where he murdered Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacked President Biden. We speak with Talking Points Memo reporter Hunter Walker about his exclusive report, which he says “removes that veil of plausible deniability” from Gosar about his office’s ties to extremists.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we look now at the newly confirmed direct connection between a white supremacist leader and the digital director for one of Trump’s staunchest supporters in Congress.
We’re joined in New York by Hunter Walker, an investigative reporter at Talking Points Memo, where his exclusive new story is headlined “Capitol Hill Staffer Is A Prominent Follower Of Neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes.”
Fuentes is a far-right leader who rose under Trump. The staffer who was revealed in the piece works for far-right Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, who’s linked to organizers of the deadly January 6 insurrection and was censured for posting an animated video on social media where he murders Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacks President Biden. That’s the congressman, Gosar. Gosar also spoke at the openly racist America First conference, organized by Nick Fuentes to compete with the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. This new story reveals Gosar’s ties to the white supremacist movement go even deeper.
Hunter Walker, if you can lay out what you found about his digital director?
HUNTER WALKER: Well, Amy, great to see you, first off.
And as you pointed out, Paul Gosar already has been linked directly and personally to Nick Fuentes. But his relationship with this neo-Nazi leader has been one of alternately embracing him and distancing himself from him. As you alluded to, Paul Gosar has appeared at two editions of Nick Fuentes’s America First Political Action Conference, once in person, once by video. But after that second one caused a backlash, Gosar said, you know, “Nick has a problem with his mouth,” and sort of attempted to disavow him somewhat. So, he’s operated with a bit of plausible deniability as he’s repeatedly been tied to extremist activity, including, you know, having antisemitic websites appearing in his official newsletter. And I think this story, one of the key things about it is it really removes that veil of plausible deniability for Paul Gosar.
And what I found is that, you know, this staffer in his office, Wade Searle, evidence appears to link him to this sort of digital persona, “Chikkenright,” this network of interlinked social media accounts, that has put out extremist content, including statements, you know, referring to Jews as, quote-unquote, “hook-nosed bankers,” disparaging Asians, minimizing slavery. And also, in addition to just being a social media account, this, quote-unquote, “Chikken” persona was a leading figure in Nick Fuentes’s organization. And we know that because of accusations from defectors from Fuentes’s inner circle, who released internal chats showing this “Chikken” person participating in the leadership conversations, telling them about what was going on in Gosar’s office. And then, also, he’s a moderator on Nick Fuentes’s regular stream.
So, you know, this guy has been linked to being a prominent follower of Nick Fuentes, who is an outright neo-Nazi, and the evidence is extensive. These accounts posted pictures that appear to show Wade Searle with Fuentes. It was identified as coming from Searle’s hometown, being the same age as Searle. And at its inception, this “Chikkenright” account was credited to, quote-unquote, “Wade” and another person, quote-unquote, “Landen,” who we believe appears to be Landen Peterson, an intern in Gosar’s office. So there are multiple people in the congressman’s office linked to this incredibly extremist online activity and Nick Fuentes’s “Groyper” movement.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain more, Hunter Walker, how you know “Chikken” and “Chikkenright” — C-H-I-K-K-E-N — how you directly linked him — because this is a very serious allegation — to Paul Gosar’s office, to his staffer, Wade Searle.
HUNTER WALKER: Well, first off, there’s no question he works in Paul Gosar’s office. You know, we looked at the disclosures. And one thing that’s extremely —
AMY GOODMAN: Right, but how Wade Searle is “Chikken” or “Chikkenright”?
HUNTER WALKER: Totally. But one thing that’s extremely interesting about that, that I just want to touch on first, is, you know, there was that extreme video about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And it was based on an anime, Attack on Titan, with sort of Gosar and Ocasio-Cortez’s heads superimposed on the characters of this extremely violent Japanese animation. And anime is a persistent feature of the far right. So, that video is kind of an example of how Paul Gosar’s social media has already borrowed from these far-right extremist circles. And he actually hired Wade Searle one day, officially, after being censured for that video. So, even despite getting slaps on the wrist from his fellow Republicans in Congress, Gosar has repeatedly, you know, on his official accounts, sort of winked and nodded at the far right, even as he supposedly disavowed him.
What we found with Wade Searle, you know, is just so many links. I mean, first off, Gosar joined Gab, the extremist social media site, right after Searle joined his office. At that point, he started reposting content from “Chikkenright.” “Chikkenright” was reposting content from Gosar. At points on the “Chikkenright” accounts — and they’re all linked. I mean, there’s a Twitter, a Telegram and a Gab, sort of an overall presence that all has these internal links promoting itself, an Instagram page that was credited to, quote-unquote, “Wade” and, quote-unquote, “Landen.” And all of these interlinked accounts promoted extremist content, promoted Gosar, talked about insider knowledge of Arizona Republicans.
And then, you know, the two most dramatic moments came as Wade Searle took his activism beyond social media. And Searle appeared to join Fuentes at a 2020 Stop the Steal rally. In addition to being a neo-Nazi, Fuentes was a big election denier whose followers had a major presence at January 6th. And you can see a man who appears to be Searle standing behind Fuentes at one of these rallies in Phoenix, Arizona, where he called Trump’s loss a, quote-unquote, “fraud.” And, you know, photos of that man were posted on the various “Chikkenright” social media pages, as well as Wade Searle’s more public named social media. So, he posted his own photos. You know, various things in the content, such as his hometown, the credit in the bio, seem to link him to this activity. And then, most importantly, you have these defectors from Fuentes’s organization, a man named Simon Dickerman, who has named Wade Searle as “Chikkenright.”
This was sort of an open secret on the far right. I came across it, and then I joined with two researchers, Haley Orion of Arizona Right Wing Watch and Nick Martin of The Informant, and we pooled all of the information we had found, and, you know, it just really appears to definitively show that Wade Searle was behind these accounts. But, you know, he has been previously named by his own colleagues on the far right.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what has been Gosar’s response to your investigation?
HUNTER WALKER: Not much. You know, yesterday, the only thing I noticed from Gosar is that he shut off comments on his tweets. He blocked replies. And I think that’s a really, really important thing here. You know, I noted before that he was censured for this extreme video about Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. Since then, he’s actually been brought back onto committees, after having them stripped from him, including the extremely powerful Oversight Committee. Not only did we reach out to Gosar to give him an opportunity to comment and reject this in any way or to say that he didn’t know that this was happening, but we reached out to Speaker McCarthy, and he has offered no response whatsoever. And Democrats have offered very limited response, from what we’ve seen.
And one of the reactions I’m noticing is, just because of Paul Gosar’s extensive history, you know, winking and nodding at the far right, speaking at Fuentes’s events, people have said they’re not surprised. And, you know, I would just note that you were talking earlier about the alarming rise in white supremacy in this country, in white supremacist organizations. Getting an inroad on a Capitol Hill staff is a major, major turning point in that movement. It’s a major bit of growth for them. And if we start to reach a point where we say we’re not surprised by this, where we say, you know, we expect this in Congress, then we’re allowing it to become normal. And I personally find this shocking, and I think we should remain shocked by it.
AMY GOODMAN: Hunter Walker, we want to thank you for being with us, investigative reporter at Talking Points Memo. We’ll link to your exclusive new report, “Capitol Hill Staffer Is A Prominent Follower Of Neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes.”
Oh, by the way, in other news from Capitol Hill, a man armed with a metal baseball bat attacked two staffers at Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly’s district office in Virginia Monday. The man arrived at the office, reportedly said, “Where is Connolly?” It’s unclear what motivated the attack. A young woman who was an intern at the office on her first day of work, he beat her with the baseball bat, as well as a senior staffer. He slammed him in the head. They were hospitalized. They are out from the hospital now.
Next up, an update from human rights advocates just back from the U.S.-Mexico border as the Trump-era Title 42 policy ends. Stay with us.