Pepe the Frog is an online meme character popular with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and online fascists. The Proud Boys, meanwhile, are a far-right, semi-fascist, pro-Trump group of men who keep getting caught beating people up and
But not North Florida congressman Matt Gaetz. The lawmaker, frequent Fox News guest
But along the way, Gaetz — who is on Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis' "transition team" — stopped for a selfie with a dude in a Pepe T-shirt and Proud Boy hat:
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This isn't exactly a new phenomenon for Gaetz. After being elected to Congress in 2017, he's spent most of his career genuflecting to Donald Trump, making statements that clearly dog-whistle to white supremacists, and involving himself with corners of the internet popular with the alt-right. He appeared on
Given DeSantis' long, documented history of racist and xenophobic views, it is perhaps not surprising that the gubernatorial candidate named Gaetz to his transition team. This also possibly explains why Gaetz traveled all the way down to Broward County last weekend — but doesn't excuse the fact that, as Orlando Weekly noted on Saturday, Gaetz spent his time screaming like a nut job at various Democratic counterprotesters. He also filmed himself yelling at various poll workers and truck drivers.
The Proud Boys, a violent group led by former Vice founder turned racist-guy Gavin McInnes, spent the last few years operating in relative obscurity. But earlier this year, the Manhattan Republicans invited McInnes to speak at an event — and a group of Proud Boys was filmed beating up protesters outside. Scholars of fascism warned that the moment represented a worrying sign for American democracy, and noted that fascist movements in the past have relied on groups like the Proud Boys to commit extrajudicial violence with winking approval. More than a few historians are concerned about what might happen if the Proud Boys ingratiate themselves with the mainstream Republican Party. In addition to Gaetz, Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was also photographed this year next to a man in a Proud-Boy T-shirt.
A spokesperson for Gaetz did not respond to a message from New Times asking why Gaetz snapped a selfie with a Pepe fan.