Politics

GOP Reps. Gaetz, Greene Praise Arizona Election Audit at Mesa Rally

From left to right: Representatives Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar
From left to right: Representatives Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar Josh Kelety
Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, two of America's most controversial Republican politicians, headlined a GOP rally in Mesa on Friday night where they spewed insults, railed against moderate Republicans, and praised Arizona's so-called election audit.

The two lawmakers aren't famous for nothing. Florida Congressman Gaetz is reportedly under investigation for sex trafficking, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who represents Georgia, previously embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory and was stripped of her committee assignments in February by the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

The packed event, which was held at the Delta Hotels by Marriott in Mesa, was part of the duo's "America First" tour. It served as both a fundraiser and a blatant attempt to solidify former President Donald Trump's grip on the Republican party. High-profile pro-Trump Republicans like Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward attended, as well as Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs. Complete with chants like "CNN sucks" and "We want Trump," it was like a Trump rally, only without Trump.

"The civil war is over. We've won. This is Donald Trump's Republican Party," Gaetz said during his speech to cheers from the crowd. "You cannot kill an idea."

Gaetz' appearance came on the same day that CNN reported that his ex-girlfriend is cooperating with federal investigators as they probe sex trafficking alleged to be committed by the Florida congressman. Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida and associate of Gaetz, has already pleaded guilty to several charges, including sex trafficking of a minor.

Naturally, Gaetz didn't address the news about his ex-girlfriend or the fact that he is the subject of a federal investigation. The closest he got to acknowledging the controversy was to tell the crowd, "Thank you for having my back."

Instead, he and Greene — who generated her own headlines on Friday for comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust — hyped up the crowd by insulting well-known Democrats, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and anti-Trump Republicans, like the McCains and Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney.

click to enlarge The crowd applauds Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene at the Delta Hotels Phoenix Mesa. - JOSH KELETY
The crowd applauds Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene at the Delta Hotels Phoenix Mesa.
Josh Kelety
Greene referred to progressive Democrats like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar as the "jihad squad" and called Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "Speaker mask-hole." She also said that gun control advocates are "damn fools" and slammed Republicans who aren't loyal to Trump. Gaetz said that, under the Joe Biden administration, it is "nap time in America."

"You might be a Democrat and have a serious problem in your primary election if you're one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach," she said. "This is why so many people don't vote. They don't trust Republicans to do the job."

Both Gaetz and Matt praised the ongoing Arizona Senate-ordered audit of ballots cast in Maricopa County in 2020. Gaetz repeated the baseless conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was "stolen."

"Encourage your state senators," she said. "Do not let them fail. Hold them accountable. You hired them. And get this audit done, Arizona."

"We are here in Arizona to stand in solidarity with the Arizona election audit," Gaetz said. "You have an outstanding Senate President Karen Fann."

Kelli Ward, in her speech, said that the audit will give other states the "wisdom, the courage, and the passion to follow in [Arizona's] footsteps."

"I certainly hope to see Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, follow, follow, and find out what happened in 2020," she said. "People have to be held accountable."

At one point, Greene suggested that people shouldn't get the vaccine against COVID-19 if they don't want it, tying it to mask-wearing, which became politically polarized in the run-up to the 2020 election.

"It's your body. The vaccine is a choice," Greene said. "If people want to take it, let them have it. If they don't want to take it, let them refuse it. But you're not a second-class citizen or to be treated by some lower-class sibling because you refused a mask or refused a vaccine."

She also downplayed the infamous events of January 6 in Washington D.C., where a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.

"They get one riot at the Capitol and that's all they want to talk about, " she said. "They need Witch Hunt 2.0."

During a question-and-answer panel with Representatives Greene, Gaetz, Biggs, and Gosar at the rally after the speeches were over, Gaetz addressed the elephant in the room: That, under Trump, Republicans had lost both the White House and the Senate.

"You guys have got two Democrat senators, you handed all these electoral votes to Joe Biden, you've got a governor who some days I don't know what party your governor is," he said, referring his question to Gosar. "So, Paul, what is it going to take to make Arizona a red state again?"

"It's embracing America first," Gosar replied, doubling down on Trumpism. "That's what's going to make it red."
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Josh Kelety is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety