WASHINGTON (AP) – Republican Rep. Paul Gosar is suggesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville was instigated by "the left" and backed by billionaire George Soros.
The Arizona congressman, in an interview published Thursday by Vice News, described the rally's organizer as "a person from Occupy Wall Street that was an Obama sympathizer."
Blogger Jason Kessler planned the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. A woman was killed when a car plowed into a group of people at the rally, where white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has described Kessler as a "relative newcomer to the white nationalist scene." The SPLC noted, "Rumors abound on white nationalist forums that Kessler's ideological pedigree before 2016 was less than pure and seem to point to involvement in the Occupy movement and past support for President Obama."
Some conservative outlets and commentators have picked up that portion of the center's description to raise the question of who was to blame for the violence in Charlottesville.
Gosar expanded on the theory in an interview with Vice. "Let's look at the person that actually started the rally. It's come to our attention that this is a person from Occupy Wall Street that was an Obama sympathizer. So, wait a minute, be careful where you start taking these people to," Gosar said.
"And look at the background. You know, you know George Soros is one of those people that actually helps back these individuals. Who is he? I think he's from Hungary. I think he was Jewish. And I think he turned in his own people to the Nazis. Better be careful where we go with those."
When the Vice News reporter asked Gosar whether he thought Soros was funding the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, he replied, "Wouldn't it be interesting to find out?"
Gosar's comments aren't sitting well with some conservatives. Commentator Bill Kristol tweeted: "Will other Republicans rebuke him? If not, is this a party to which one can belong?"
A spokesman for Soros' Open Society Foundation told Vice News that Soros was 14 years old when World War II ended and has spent his life supporting efforts to ensure that such terrifying authoritarianism never takes root again.
"He did not collaborate with the Nazis. He did not help round up people. He did not confiscate anybody's property. Such baseless allegations are insulting to the victims of the Holocaust, to all Jewish people, and to anyone who honors the truth. It is an affront to Mr. Soros and his family, who against the odds managed to survive one of the darkest moments in our history," the spokesman said.
Gosar made the statements during an interview about his decision to block his critics on social media.