Arizona Senate Investigating Wendy Rogers Over Claims About Buffalo Shooting

A remark by Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers has sparked national outrage.
A remark by Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers has sparked national outrage. Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Just hours after a shooter killed 10 people Saturday in a racist attack at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers took to social media to write: "Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo," implying the attack was a false-flag operation.

She posted the remark Saturday on Gab and Telegram, two social media sites popular on the political right. The posts gained hundreds of likes from Rogers' supporters.

They also sparked national outrage. In the wake of the attacks by an 18-year-old white supremacist, who posted hundreds of pages of his writings, some on the far-right spread conspiracies that the attack was a false flag operation. Rogers appeared to be fueling those claims.

By Monday, national outlets — including Rolling Stone and Business Insider — had taken notice of Rogers' comments: "Racist Republican Lawmaker Claims White Supremacist Buffalo Shooting Was False Flag," read one headline.

On Monday afternoon, the Arizona Senate voted to open an ethics investigation into her comment. The motion passed in the GOP-controlled chamber. Other than Rogers herself, only two senators cast dissenting votes: East Valley Republicans Warren Petersen, of Gilbert, and Kelly Townsend, of Mesa. Twenty-four senators voted in favor of opening an investigation.

"This Senator was up before the ethics committee a year ago. In March, our state senate voted to censure her because of hateful, anti-Semitic comments," said Arizona State Senator Victoria Steele, a Tucson Democrat who is speaking in support of the investigation. "Spewing hate and furthering racist comments is not what we should be here for."

Several Democratic members of the Senate said they believed that more serious action — like expulsion — was necessary. Senate President Karen Fann waved away that option, saying the body "believed in due process" and that such action was "premature."

A subsequent motion to expel Rogers for her comments failed, largely along party lines. Multiple Republicans who voted in favor of the investigation dissented on the expulsion. It needed a two-thirds majority to pass, which would mean 20 votes. Only 11 voted in favor, with 15 opposed.

Rogers did not speak during the vote. And so far, she has not taken down the posts, nor apologized, but late Monday she issued a statement.

"Sadly, my comment was taken completely out of context and became a false narrative that's now the focal point of a firestorm created by certain race-obsessed members of the media," the statement read, without adding context.

It went on to add, "Let me be very clear: I do not condone violent crime or racism. My heart breaks for those who lost their lives as well as for their families in this weekend's shooting in Buffalo, New York. I pray justice is brought to the perpetrator."

It's hardly Rogers' first controversy — or association with extremist views. She represents a large, rural district that sprawls across Coconino, Yavapai, and Gila counties, and since getting elected to the legislature in 2020, has been embroiled in one controversy after another.

Rogers was censured by her Senate colleagues after she called for the hangings of her political opponents at an extremist conference in Florida, then went on social media rants that, critics charged, were blatantly anti-Semitic. She also has appeared on extremist TV shows.

As critics have noted, Rogers has also stoked the "great replacement" conspiracy that, according to the shooter's own writings, inspired the attack on shoppers in a mostly Black neighborhood in Buffalo.

The ideology, centered around the idea that white people are being replaced by immigration, has a long history in white supremacist groups, and has prompted other episodes of violence and mass shootings, including the Christchurch attack in New Zealand in 2019.

Rhetoric that alludes or nods to these beliefs is not unusual in far-right circles. But Rogers, in particular, has drawn attention in the press for her invocation of similar beliefs. In July 2021, she tweeted a Breitbart article about immigration and added: "We are being replaced and invaded."

When Rogers faced scrutiny for that tweet, she announced that she stood by the statement. "We Americans who love this country are being replaced by people who do not love this country," she wrote. She later added that she wanted to "make Western civilization great again."

As several lawmakers noted this weekend, Rogers is just one example of extremism in the Arizona legislature.

Though Rogers didn't reply to Phoenix New Times' questions, she posted this statement on Twitter on Monday, apparently responding to the backlash:

"Of course, I condemn the violence in Buffalo. Who doesn’t?" she wrote. "I also condemn the #FakeNews and the government promoting violence and then blaming it on regular patriotic Americans as if regular Americans share those despicable views. Everything is not what it seems!"
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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