On Tuesday night, New York Times reporter Jonathan Swan, known for his many contacts among Republicans, tweeted out a Breitbart news report about an obscure right-wing pundit named Pedro Gonzalez, documenting the many anti-Semitic and racist comments he made in private group chats a few years ago. “Seems like every GOP operative in my phone book,” Swan wrote, “is reading and sharing this Breitbart story right now.”
On the face of it, it’s hard to see why this particular news story would generate so much excitement among Republican political operatives. After all, Gonzalez is hardly a household name even among those who follow GOP politics closely. He’s a political editor at Chronicles, a small paleoconservative journal, and occasionally writes opinion pieces for Newsweek, once an important magazine but now a hollow shell that uses its brand name to launder extreme right-wing ideas.
But if Gonzalez is a relatively minor figure in the grand scheme of things, he was useful for Breitbart in the proxy war between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Breitbart is a very much in the Trump camp. The abundant evidence that Gonzalez, a vocal DeSantis supporter, is a racist and anti-Semite provided Breitbart with a useful way to deflect criticism of Trump for bigotry. Gonzalez’s sordid private messages were particularly helpful as a way to whitewash one of Trump’s major recent missteps, his meeting last November with Holocaust denier and white nationalist Nick Fuentes.
The Breitbart/Gonzalez knife fight can be seen as a particularly ugly battle in the larger civil war between Team Trump and Team DeSantis. In this conflict, both sides are accusing the other of being Nazi-friendly. Outsiders have no need to prefer one party over another in this battle, since both sides are right.
According to Breitbart, “Gonzalez is particularly newsworthy at this time because he is one of the highest-profile online personalities promoting Ron DeSantis’s 2024 presidential campaign. The DeSantis campaign and the Super PAC backing DeSantis—called ‘Never Back Down’—have both been publicly promoting, and sometimes retweeting, Gonzalez and his work.” This might seem like a tenuous connection—but Breitbart does in fact demonstrate that the DeSantis campaign has been deliberately elevating Gonzalez:
DeSantis entered the 2024 GOP presidential race on Wednesday, May 24. In the few weeks since then, Gonzalez has seen amplification of his work from people in the Florida governor’s orbit, as high-ranking as DeSantis’s campaign manager Generra Peck, Rapid Response Director Christina Pushaw, campaign adviser Nate Hochman, Never Back Down communications adviser Steve Cortes, and others. The DeSantis War Room official campaign Twitter account has also amplified his work.
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Breitbart is also convincing in its characterization of Gonzalez as a racist and anti-Semite who admires Fuentes. In one message, Gonzalez wrote, “Minorities like me see America for what it is—a country built by whites, that can only survive if whites survive. And it is my job to make whites wake up.”
Gonzalez asserted that Jews, including most conservative Jews, are a major roadblock to preserving white domination (he made an exception for a few Jews like paleoconservative intellectual Paul Gottfried).
Criticizing former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka for writing an article hostile to the John Birch Society (JBS), Gonzalez wrote, “Members of the JBS were unafraid to call out subversive Jews. Gorka is totally owned by Zionists. He needs their money.”
In another December 2019 message, Gonzalez derided Gorka for being
totally in the thrall of his Jewish donors. The problem with being a big con is that you become dependent on the money. Who do you think bankrolls conservatives? Mostly Jewish/Zionist types who, surprise!, are just as opposed to white racial consciousness as the left is.
Gonzalez also repeatedly praised Fuentes as the future of right-wing politics in America. Breitbart shamelessly uses the Gonzalez story as an occasion to praise Trump for eventually distancing himself from Fuentes.
The Gonzalez story raises many questions: Most of the bigoted messages are from a few years ago, so why are they coming out now—and from Breitbart, of all publications? After all, Breitbart is not normally a publication that is concerned with policing extremism on the right. In fact, it has a history of encouraging such extremism. The timing seems politically opportunistic.
And if Gonzalez was making all these vile comments in a group chat, did the other members agree with him? According to Breitbart, “At times, in either the one-on-one messages or in the group chat, someone would push back—-and other times some would agree with him.” Which suggests that some of the sources of the article are just as bigoted as Gonzalez.
In a lengthy response to the Breitbart article, Gonzalez dismissed his earlier bigotry as wrong—but motivated by youthful indiscretion and a love of transgression. This seems implausible. The ideology of blaming Jews for destroying white identity is a staple of Nazi thought, not a form of comedy. And 2019 is not exactly a distant epoch now lost in the mists of time.
More plausibly, Gonzalez depicted the Breitbart article as a Trumpian hit piece: “Crossing Trump’s political machine puts you in a state of nature—a state of war without rules of engagement or codes of conduct. There are no limits to how much harm can be inflicted.” Gonzalez also notes, “My messages with individuals who are still aligned with Trump and have relationships with his media network are not being used against me because they found my comments particularly offensive. They have said the same or worse.” This is a very believable claim.
Responding to the Breitbart article, the pro-DeSantis PAC Never Back Down has distanced itself from Gonzalez. While the DeSantis campaign had no way of knowing about Gonzalez’s racist private messages, the pundit’s bigotry was sometimes evident in his public comments, including his description of someone as having “Rothschild physiognomy.”
Both Breitbart and Gonzalez are despicable in different ways. The larger question is why figures like Fuentes and Gonzalez are gaining prominence. Why did Trump meet with Fuentes? Why did the DeSantis campaign briefly elevate Gonzalez as a media ally?
Writing in 2017 in the aftermath of the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., where Trump notoriously praised “very fine people on both sides,” the journalist Alex Pareene predicted that the event was a presage of the future of the Republican Party. Pareene argued, “Racial resentment has been a driving force behind College Republican recruitment for years, but at this point it’s really all they have left to offer. In the age of President Donald Trump, what inspires a young person not merely to be conservative or vote Republican, but to get active in organized Republican politics?”
Pareene has proved prophetic. Both the Trump and DeSantis campaigns know that to excite the young activists on the right, they have to make overtures to sometimes embarrassing figures like Fuentes and Gonzalez. At the same time, the two campaigns will also try to highlight the bigotry of the opposing team—an easy enough task.
In truth, there are bad people on both sides.