Where Sen. Mitt Romney sees 'morons', Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sees allies

Doug Ducey, Governor of Arizona, speaks during the official Super Bowl Host Committee hand off press conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Los Angeles.
Doug Ducey, Governor of Arizona, speaks during the official Super Bowl Host Committee hand off press conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in Los Angeles.
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A pair of prominent Republicans broke the disturbing and rather deafening silence within the once-Grand Old Party over the weekend, calling out Reps. Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene for participating in a conference catering to white nationalists.

Are you watching, Gov. Doug Ducey?

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming on Saturday unleashed on the pair for their participation on Friday in the America First Political Action Conference, an event organized by Nick Fuentes.

Both the Department of Justice and the Anti-Defamation League have labeled Fuentes a white supremacist.

Greene was a keynote speaker at Fuentes’ Florida conference on Friday. Gosar pre-recorded a message for the group, having become the first sitting member of Congress to deliver a keynote speech at the conference last year.

GOP silence is 'deafening and enabling'

Color Cheney appalled by Greene’s and Gosar’s legitimization of Fuentes and his devoted army of young white nationalists.

“As Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep Paul Gosar speak at this white supremacist, anti-Semitic, pro-Putin event, silence by Republican Party leaders is deafening and enabling,” Cheney tweeted on Saturday.

“All Americans should renounce this garbage and reject the Putin wing of the GOP now.”

On Sunday, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah sounded off, calling the undistinguished duo a pair of “morons”.

“Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, I don’t know them,” Romney said on CNN’s State of the Union”. “But I’m reminded of that old line from ‘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.”

Ducey wasn't just silent. He defended Rogers

I hope you’re taking notes, Gov. Ducey.

Because this is how real leaders react when confronted with vile, disgusting, unacceptable behavior.

They don’t remain quiet and they certainly don’t excuse it and they absolutely, positively don’t help the people who act this way get elected.

Yet that’s just what Ducey did.

On Thursday, he defended spending nearly $500,000 from his Arizonans for Strong Leadership PAC to get state Sen. Wendy Rogers elected in 2020.

Rogers also spoke at Friday’s America First conference.

Better to elect her than a Democrat?

The prospect of which apparently bothered Ducey not at all when asked about it by the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda. This, because her election gave Republicans that all-important 16th vote in the 30-member Senate.

“What I need as a governor are governing majorities so that I can pass dollars into our social safety net, so we can provide programs … that will help children from all over our state,” the governor said, when told by Duda that she’d be speaking at the conference.

“That’s what I’ve wanted to do, is move my agenda forward. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. And she’s still better than her opponent, Felicia French.”

Better, it seems, to elect someone who pals around with white nationalists than someone who pals around with Democrats.

At least, in the governor’s view.

Straight from the white nationalist playbook

Rogers, who had been trying to 12 years to get elected to something when Ducey came to her aid, is easily the nuttiest member of the Arizona Legislature ... possibly ever.

She spreads lies about the many ways in which the election was rigged, calls Robert E. Lee a “great patriot” and openly longs for the days of Sen. Joe McCarthy, the 1950s era witch hunter who ruined thousands of lives with unproven accusations that they were communists.

Last summer, she sounded the alarm to white nationalists in response to a news story about illegal immigration.

“We are being replaced and invaded,” she tweeted at the time.

Rogers’ words came straight from the Great Replacement Myth, which holds that white people are being systematically replaced by non-white immigrants. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Great Replacement theory has roots in early 20th French nationalism but was quickly picked up by U.S. born-and-bred white supremacists and has sparked murders.

Maybe you remember the “Unite the Right” rally in Chalottesville, Va., in 2017, when white nationalists took the streets, chanting, “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”

Rogers had the gall to defend Nick Fuentes

During her Friday speech to the white nationalists, Rogers fantasized about building "gallows" to hang her political enemies and lauded Fuentes, who has warned that America needs to protect its “white demographic core” and boasted about the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Last week, after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Fuentes took to Telegram to say, “I am totally rooting for Russia.” He also referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as “my Czar.”

During Friday’s conference, he led a round of applause for Russia and called the U.S. “the evil empire in the world.”

“Now, they’re going and saying,‘Vladimir Putin is Adolf Hitler,’ as if that isn’t a good thing,” he said, before laughing and adding, “Oops, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Rogers, meanwhile, speaking remotely from Arizona, praised Fuentes and longed for the good old days when “we could say the craziest stuff and people would just laugh and not take offense, because it was simply light-hearted.”

Controlling the Legislature isn't worth this

“I truly respect Nick because he’s the most persecuted man in America,” she said, referring to the fact that he’s been banned from most social media platforms.

For good reason.

Fortunately, there are still a few Republicans – so few, in fact, that I can count them on one hand – who are horrified by their fellow party members who act as if the bile spouted by Fuentes and his fellow white nationalists is somehow acceptable.

It’s not.

It never was.

Not even, Gov. Ducey, if it means you get to control the Legislature.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Where Sen. Mitt Romney sees 'morons,' Gov. Doug Ducey sees allies