Friday, February 26, 2021

Some local Republican politicians fire up base with social-media posts promoting conspiracies, supporting Capitol riots

"A faction of local, county and state Republican officials is pushing lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories that echo those that helped inspire the violent U.S. Capitol siege, online messaging that is spreading quickly through GOP ranks fueled by algorithms that boost extreme content," The Associated Press reports. "The bitter, combative rhetoric is helping the officials grow their constituencies on social media and gain outsized influence in their communities, city councils, county boards and state assemblies. And it exposes the GOP’s internal struggle over whether the party can include traditional conservative politicians, conspiracy theorists and militias as it builds its base for 2022."

AP reviewed social media accounts for nearly 1,000 Republican officials at the local, state and federal level. Many posts, some deleted, have voiced support for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots or said the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and should be overturned. "Some Republican officials are posting theories related to QAnon, which the FBI has called a domestic terrorism threat. And the Department of Homeland Security has warned of the potential for lingering violence from extremists enraged by Biden’s election and emboldened by the Capitol attack," AP reports. "Although some Democrats also have used incendiary and aggressive language online, AP focused its research on the GOP because court documents show the overwhelming number of people arrested in association with the Capitol insurrection are longtime supporters of Trump, who has a huge Republican fan base after leaving office."

When AP asked Republican National Committee spokeperson Mandi Merritt about the incendiary rhetoric, she declined to answer specific questions and instead referred AP reporters to a Jan. 13 statement by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel that said "Violence has no place in our politics, period."

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