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Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers embraces white nationalist extremist group

State Senate might consider censure but Gov. Ducey doesn't back down from defending her. Extremism expert says Rogers helps make far-right views mainstream

PHOENIX — Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers finds herself in the middle of a political firestorm after speaking to a white nationalist group's annual convention last weekend.

Rogers told the America First Political Action Conference that the group's political enemies should be hanged on a "newly built set of gallows."

"It'll make an example of these traitors who have betrayed our country," Rogers said via live video.

Rogers also praised the leader of AFPAC, Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist and Holocaust denier.

"Nick and the other patriots in attendance at AFPAC, please keep doing what you're doing," Rogers said.

Rogers, a first-term Flagstaff Republican, is well-entrenched on the far right. Her social media accounts are filled with posts echoing extremist views. 

RELATED: Wendy Rogers censured by Arizona Senate for 'unbecoming conduct'

In recent days, she's repeated anti-Semitic dog whistles praising Russian President Vladimir Putin and putting down Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish. 

The AFPAC appearance put her views in the national spotlight, at a time when Republican leaders are trying to tamp down their own officeholders' and former President Trump's messages praising Putin.

RELATED: Arizona lawmaker Wendy Rogers tops advocacy group's extremist politician list

Here's what we know about the fallout from Rogers' AFPAC speech:

Rogers censure being considered

Arizona Senate Republicans, who've been mum about Rogers' views, are considering a  formal censure of Rogers, according to the Arizona Mirror.

On Monday, Rogers used her Gab account to threaten any senator who might vote for a censure: "I will personally destroy the career of any Republican who partakes in the gaslighting of me simply because of the color of my skin or opinion about a war I don't want to send our kids to die in."

Ducey Doesn't Back Down 

A video of Gov. Doug Ducey refusing to condemn Rogers - shot before the weekend event - has more than half a million views on Twitter. 

In response to a question about Rogers' embrace of white nationalism, Ducey said: "I'm proud of what  we've been able to accomplish (in the Legislature) ... and she's still better than her opponent Felicia French." 

French is the Democrat who ran against Rogers.

Rogers retweeted the video with a heart emoji.

On Monday, Ducey's office declined to comment when asked by the Arizona Republic if the governor wanted to clarify his statements about Rogers.

Ducey was Rogers' financial angel during her 2020 campaign to win a northern Arizona legislative district. 

Roger had lost five election in the preceding 10 years. But a half-million dollars in financial support from a Ducey-backed independent expenditure committee delivered the state Senate seat to Rogers.

What Felicia French Says

In an interview from her home in Tuba City, French told 12 News she was surprised Ducey singled her out by name.

"Why would he say my name twice? He doesn't know me," said French, who served for 32 years in the Army.

She ran for the Senate in 2020 after a narrow defeat in 2018 for her northern Arizona district's House seat.

"It was pretty disheartening to have so much money spent against me ... on falsehoods," French said.

French, who was a combat nurse,  also expressed concern for Rogers, an Air Force veteran.

"I am concerned as a medical person, wondering if there's something wrong with her," French said. "I don't think a mentally  healthy person would spew such hatred."

Why Wendy Rogers Matters

Devin Burghart has tracked extremist groups for 30 years. He's executive director of the Seattle-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.  

Burghart said in an interview that Republican officeholders such as Rogers, by virtue of their positions, help inject Nick Fuentes' ideas into the political mainstream.

"What it does is it gives groups like Fuentes' organization both the legitimacy and the attention they so crave," Burghart said.

Fuentes, Burghart said, "has expressed Holocaust denial and a love of the kind of genocidal fantasies and the most vicious forms of racism and bigotry you can imagine."

Burghart took a dim view of Ducey's position that he needed a Republican vote to pass his agenda.  

"This isn't just politics," Burghart said. "This is providing aid and support to the enemies of all of us in this country."

Few Republicans Speaking Out

A handful of Arizona Republican officeholders - just four at the latest count - have condemned Rogers' conduct.

The chairman and vice-chairman of the Maricopa County Board issued a joint statement that said in part: 

"Wendy Rogers does not represent American values or interests.  I trust other business, community, and political leaders will publicly condemn her hateful, dangerous, paranoid, un-American rhetoric." 

The board has been at odds with Republican senators over their almost year-old partisan review of the 2020 election.

Rogers has been a leading promoter of the lie that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. 

Her ferocious defense of Trump - and his reciprocating with an endorsement - has paid off for Rogers: Her campaign raised $2.5 million last year, more than any statewide Republican candidate brought in. In a rural legislative district where TV ad spending isn't a factor, Rogers could become a funding source in her own right for other candidates or causes.

Sen. Paul Boyer of North Phoenix, who has been something of a pariah among fellow Republicans after blocking a contempt motion against the County Board last year, tweeted, "You're not a victim @WendyRogersAZ so quit pretending to be one."

Sen. T.J. Shope of Coolidge posted a tweet saying that "[Rogers'] comments are [expletive]. Thought that was pretty clear.

Maricopa County Supervisor Thomas Galvin linked Rogers and the Democratic Socialists of America in his critique:

RELATED: Arizona state senator accused of harassing aide who was forced out on 1st day back from COVID-19 illness

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