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GOP Rep. Rosendale posed with far-right extremists, says he didn’t know them

A Republican congressman who was photographed with two men known for promoting white supremacist and other hateful ideology has said that he did not know who they were at the time and condemned their ideology.

Rep. Matthew M. Rosendale (R-Mont.) posed for a photo outside the U.S. Capitol with a group that includes Greyson Arnold, an activist known for promoting conspiracy theories relating to Jewish and LGBTQ people and for calling Hitler misunderstood. Also in the photo is Ryan Sanchez, who has endorsed far-right groups and individuals with antisemitic and racist views. The Washington Post was unable to identify the two other men in the group.

In a statement, Rosendale said he “was asked for a photo while walking between hearings, accommodating as I do for all photo requests,” and that he was unaware “of the individuals’ identity or affiliation with these hate groups that stand in stark contrast to my personal beliefs.” He said he did not have a meeting with the individuals.

“I absolutely condemn and have zero tolerance for hate groups, hate speech, and violence,” Rosendale added.

A user named “The Greyson” posted the photo on Telegram on March 3, alongside the caption: “Met up with Congressman Matt Rosendale outside the Capitol Building.” According to the Daily Montanan, Arnold runs the group. An unverified Instagram account associated with Arnold also posted the photo.

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According to the Associated Press, Arnold identifies as a “Christian American Nationalist.” The Telegram group associated with him once called a past effort by Mississippi lawmakers to eliminate a symbol of the Confederacy from the state flag “erasure of American heritage.” Arnold said in a 2020 tweet that Hitler is a “complicated historical figure” whom “many people misunderstand.”

Last year, Sanchez wrote on Telegram that he was “proud to have known” members of the Rise Above Movement, which the Anti-Defamation League considers to be a white supremacist group and says “operates like a street-fighting club.” Sanchez said he would “never apologize” for being pictured with them.

It’s not clear why Arnold and Sanchez were near the Capitol or when the photo with Rosendale was taken. Arnold recently posted that he and Sanchez were “personally invited” by a senator, though he did not identify the lawmaker.

As the photo circulated online, many commentators pointed out that Rosendale had been photographed with far-right extremists before. In 2014, he was photographed at a Montana rally for gun rights, speaking next to members of the Oath Keepers, a self-styled militia group whose members have been convicted for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. Rosendale later said he had “zero connection” with the group and was at the rally to support the Second Amendment.

The controversy points to the increased visibility of far-right figures such as Arnold and Sanchez in conservative politics. Both attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland over the weekend. Arnold described a speech by far-right activist Nick Fuentes — whom the ADL has labeled a white nationalist — as “one of the most important” there.

Both Sanchez and Arnold have expressed their support for those who were arrested for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. According to the ADL, Arnold was in Washington that day, taking part in far-right protests with Fuentes and other activists.

Rosendale has issued equivocal statements on Jan. 6. Following the riot, the congressman voted not to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, citing allegations of voter fraud, which have been debunked. While he condemned the violence, he also voted against launching a House investigation into what happened.

Later, the congressman likened the Jan. 6 committee, whose job it was to investigate the events of that day and issue criminal referrals against those it deemed responsible, to a reality-TV show, and called it a “very, very large waste of the taxpayer’s money.”

“They’re using this scripted program for nothing more than to create commercials to run for Democrats in 2022 and against Trump in case he does actually run for president in 2024,” Rosendale said of the committee in an interview with Newsmax in June.

As The Post has reported, Rosendale is thought to be interested in the Republican nomination for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who is up for reelection in 2024. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), has declined to express enthusiasm for a potential Rosendale run and is actively looking for other candidates, according to people familiar with his recruiting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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