A faction of local, county and state Republican officials across the country is pushing lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories online that echo those that helped inspire the U.S. Capitol insurrection.
These GOP officials’ posts are being amplified by algorithms that boost extreme content, allowing the officials to grow their bases on social media and exert outsize sway on their communities, city councils, county boards and state assemblies.
The Associated Press reviewed social media accounts of nearly 1,000 federal, state and local elected and appointed Republican officials.
The rhetoric exposes the GOP’s internal struggle over whether it can include traditional conservative politicians, conspiracy theorists and militias.
Among the social media accounts viewed by the Associated Press was that of Londa Gatt, the Republican Women’s Federation of Michigan vice president, who also works as a "Bikers for Trump" coordinator.
Gatt was reportedly interviewed by the FBI in recent weeks after she shared photographs on social media that showed her at the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, but has not faced charges. She claims she left the scene when things turned violent.
But since Jan. 6, Gatt has shared hashtags tied to the QAnon conspiracy theory, and claiming she has President Donald Trump's personal email, has asked her followers who participated in the riots to send messages directly to him. "The lawyers need our help," Gatt posted, according to The Associated Press.
The AP also reports that Idaho’s Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chairman Brent Regan has encouraged all "able bodied males" in the state to take up arms and join a state militia. Another Idaho RNC delegate, Doyle Beck, reportedly posted photos of himself with Donald Trump Jr. with the caption "Trump 2020, Stop the Steal."
The AP reports that Republican National Committee press secretary Mandi Merritt referred reporters to a Jan. 13 statement from Ronna McDaniel, where she said that "violence has no place in our politics. Period.”