PHOENIX — Editor's Note: The above video is from an earlier broadcast.
The Republican-controlled Arizona State Senate voted 24-3 Monday to conduct an ethics investigation of state Sen. Wendy Rogers, for a social media post suggesting that the suspect in the Buffalo massacre was a federal agent, echoing claims made by white nationalists.
Not long after a gunman killed several people at a Buffalo grocery store, the Flagstaff Republican made a comment on social media that experts on extremism say is a "dog whistle" for a far-right conspiracy theory.
"Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo," Rogers said on her Telegram page and other accounts. The term “Fed boy” refers to government employees.
By a vote of 24-3, Republicans and Democrats approved an investigation of Rogers' comments by the Senate Ethics Committee.
Three GOP senators, including Rogers, voted against starting the inquiry. She did not speak in her own defense during Monday's vote.
Senate President Karen Fann said the intention of the inquiry is to shed more light on what Rogers allegedly did.
"This is something none of us like to do," Fann said Monday.
Senate Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios said Rogers' statements were "poisoning the soul of Arizona" and called for Rogers to be expelled.
A motion to expel Rogers failed to gain enough votes.
The vote for an ethics investigation sets in motion a process that could take several weeks, likely spilling into the July start of early voting for the Aug. 2 primary. The potential outcomes range from dismissal to a recommendation of expulsion.
Rogers faces a primary challenge from fellow State Sen..Kelly Townsend of Mesa.
Townsend was one of the three senators who voted against the ethics probe, citing Rogers' free-speech rights. But Townsend said of Rogers' post: "I do not agree with it."
In a statement released after Monday's proceedings, Rogers said her comment about Buffalo was taken out of context.
"Unfortunately, our Democrat members of the Senate are now turning this issue into a political tool and are continuing to perpetuate this erroneous message in an effort to foment division within our party," Rogers said in her statement.
The senator condemned the violence committed in Buffalo and said the perpetrator should be prosecuted "to the fullest extent of the law."
Rogers' statement doesn't explain what she meant by the post.
Rogers, who represents a solidly Republican northern Arizona district, is an ardent Donald Trump supporter and election denier.
She has become a national figure among far-right white Christian nationalists who espouse racist ideas. She has endorsed Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake.
This marks the third time in a year that Rogers has faced discipline by her fellow senators:
-In March, the Senate issued a rare censure of Rogers. Rogers had threatened to “personally destroy” fellow Republicans who sought to punish her. That came after she gave a speech to the white nationalist America First Political Action Conference in Florida that called for public hangings of her enemies.
-A year ago, the Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against Rogers that accused her of harassing a legislative aide.
Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray said the motion to refer the complaint to the Ethics Committee was designed to head off a vote to expel Rogers.
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