Lawmakers Censure Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers Over "Unhinged" Posts, Threats

Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers has already filed dozens of provocative bills.
Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers has already filed dozens of provocative bills. Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Arizona state senators censured the firebrand Senator Wendy Rogers in a bipartisan vote on Tuesday.

The vote came after Rogers spoke at an extremist conference in Orlando, Florida, and called for "traitors" and "high-level criminals" to be hanged. She also went on several social media screeds that were widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

The motion, introduced by Republican Senator Rick Gray, passed with overwhelming support: 24-3, with three members absent.

Opposing the move, aside from Rogers, were Republicans Nancy Barto, who represents District 15, and Warren Petersen of District 12. Rogers represents District 6, which sprawls from Sho Low to Williams.

Although lawmakers highlighted the rare moment of bipartisan action, some Senate Democrats said that the censure — a symbolic move — did not go far enough.

"Is censure enough in the face of what we've seen? I think more could be done," Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, who represents central and south Phoenix, said in remarks prefacing her vote. "But this is a start."

Rogers, over the course of her yearlong tenure as a state senator, has developed a reputation for provocative social media threads and courting far-right extremists.

But she seems to have ruffled more feathers than usual in recent weeks — enough that even fellow Republicans turned against one of their own. Eleven of her Republican colleagues in the Senate voted for the censure.

Still, Governor Doug Ducey has maintained that he would still prefer Rogers as a sitting senator over a Democrat. Ducey's office did not immediately return a query from New Times on Tuesday requesting comment.

Senator Paul Boyer, a Republican representing Glendale and west Phoenix, told New Times that the censure was in response to Rogers' social media posts becoming "particularly unhinged and removed from reality" in recent days. "We're not the party of anti-Semitism and racial superiority," he said.

Over the last week, Rogers has gone on several social media rants loosely related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. One selection of tweets from Rogers called Jewish Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy "a globalist puppet for Soros and the Clintons.” This was widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

Rogers also wrote that efforts to "de-platform and de-bank Russia" were "just as wrong as invading Ukraine."
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Wendy Rogers reacts on Telegram to the news of the planned censure vote.

On Friday, Rogers also made a pre-recorded appearance at AFPAC, a white nationalist conference run by political pundit Nick Fuentes.

During her speech, she called for the state to build “more gallows” in order to hang political enemies, “traitors,” and “high-level criminals.” She did not elaborate.

She also praised Fuentes, telling his supporters to “keep doing what you are doing.” The political commentator, considered the leader of the far-right “groyper” movement, has a long history of white supremacist views.

Several senators who spoke in favor of the censure on Tuesday cited these comments as a reason for their support of the motion.

"I don't take it lightly. Nobody should be taking it lightly," said Democratic senator Raquel Terán, who represents District 30. "This incitement to violence is unconscionable."

She called on fellow lawmakers to move to expel Rogers.

Rios and others noted that offensive and provocative remarks were not out of the ordinary for Rogers.

Over the last year, the senator has built a national following from Arizona — garnering support from powerful figures including former president Donald Trump. She has maintained a constant and polarizing presence on Twitter and Telegram, a messaging app popular on the right, to build her platform.

She has raised millions of dollars in campaign funds in the process. Last year, she reported nearly $2.5 million in donations. The majority were from out-of-state donors.

Eric Hananoki, an investigative reporter for DC-based watchdog group Media Matters, has been tracking Rogers' extremist ties.

In an email, Hananoki wrote that Rogers has used her platform to "give a signal to other elected officials that it’s fine to embrace white nationalists and Holocaust deniers like Nick Fuentes."

During the conference in Orlando, he noted, Fuentes had touted the number of elected officials in attendance. Rogers was one of nine.

"Rogers certainly holds white nationalist views," Hananoki said. Her descriptions of Zelenskyy, promotion of the "great replacement" theory, and her claims about being targeted for being white are all "applause lines for white nationalists," he said.

He argued that merits further action from the Arizona Senate.

"If it's just a censure and the Republican-led Arizona Senate doesn't do something more, Rogers is just going to keep validating white nationalist figures," he said.

And that's something Senators like Rios may be pushing for in the future.

"This is not an aberration in behavior," Rios said. "It is the default. Imagine if we had come together and had done this the very first time."

"Nevertheless," she said. "This is still a powerful message."

It's rare for lawmakers to take disciplinary action against one of their own, though it has happened before.

In 2018, lawmakers voted to expel Republican Representative Don Shooter of Yuma County after a damning investigation exposed a pattern of sexual harassment. The next year, Republican Representative David Stringer was forced to resign after refusing to cooperate with an investigation into sexual misconduct.

Boyer did not rule out taking further action on Rogers but said it was too early to say if the GOP would mobilize behind it.

"I think for today, censure is sufficient," Boyer said. "We'll see how she responds to it."

So far, Rogers has not been taking it well.

"Today is the day where we find out if the Communists in the GOP throw the sweet grandma under the bus for being white," she wrote on Telegram before the Senate convened on Tuesday.

During the vote, she spoke in her own defense. She was the only lawmaker to do so.

"This censure is nothing more than an attempt to limit my speech," she said. "I do not apologize."
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Katya Schwenk is a staff writer for Phoenix New Times. Originally from Burlington, Vermont, she now covers issues ranging from policing to far-right politics here in Phoenix. She has worked as a breaking news correspondent in Rabat, Morocco, for Morocco World News, a government technology reporter for Scoop News Group in Washington, D.C., and a local reporter in Vermont for VTDigger. Her freelance work has been published in Business Insider, the Intercept, and the American Prospect, among other places.
Contact: Katya Schwenk

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