Democrats and activists blasted Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar on Tuesday after the Republican went to London and rallied for a jailed leader of Britain's anti-immigrant fringe.
A four-term congressman from Prescott, Gosar delivered a jaw-dropping speech about free speech and Muslim immigrants to an audience of supporters of Tommy Robinson, the imprisoned founder of an anti-Muslim street protest group.
Robinson's fans and detractors rallied in London on Saturday during President Trump's visit to the U.K. The 35-year-old activist (real name: Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) is currently serving a 13-month jail sentence for contempt of court.
Democrats in Arizona excoriated Gosar for his statements vilifying Muslim immigrants at the rally for Robinson. The congressman said that a "scourge" of Muslim men from Pakistan and Bangladesh are responsible for rampant sex trafficking and child abuse in Britain.
Athena Salman, a Democrat who represents Tempe in the Arizona State House, said in a statement, “Rep. Paul Gosar has disgraced himself, his state, and country yet again.
“Now Gosar has denigrated entire Muslim communities in the United Kingdom by supporting a dangerous far-right extremist who, by his own admission, is supported by Nazis,” Salman continued. “If you find racism and white nationalism repulsive, then you should be equally repulsed by the idea of Paul Gosar representing our state in any capacity.”
Senator Martín Quezada, a Democratic state senator from Phoenix, echoed Salman in calling Gosar "a disgrace to our state and nation's values."
"I'm shocked at the lengths our @AZGOP elected leaders will go to spread their agenda of hate, division and racism," Quezada wrote on Twitter.
The author and attorney Qasim Rashid urged people to contact the congressman.
"Is this intolerance how we 'make America great?'" Rashid wrote on Twitter.
Gosar was silent on the controversy on Tuesday, instead tweeting about an award he received from the conservative organization FreedomWorks.
A spokesperson for Gosar did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Robinson was convicted of contempt of court in May after filming outside of the Leeds Crown Court in northern England. The activist was attempting to document a child sexual abuse trial in which he said the defendants are Muslim.
He founded the English Defence League in 2009, but walked away from the organization in 2013 because of the hatemongers, soccer hooligans, and neo-Nazis who had flocked to his cause.
Nevertheless, Robinson remains a brash voice against Muslim immigration to Britain. He has been convicted of several previous offenses, including assaulting an off-duty police officer in 2005.
In spite of Robinson's toxic reputation, Gosar has gone to bat for the fringe figure since he was arrested. Gosar spoke on the House floor a month ago to express concerns over Robinson's conviction. And while he was in London, Gosar suggested during an interview with Breitbart that the U.S. government should intervene to assist Robinson.
In a statement, the Arizona chapter director of the Anti-Defamation League said that there is no place for hate anywhere in the world.
“Congressman Gosar’s support of an anti-Muslim and immigrant extremist is appalling," Carlos Galindo-Elvira said. "We must stand-up and call out bigotry. Arizona’s diverse constituency deserves an explanation.”
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.