Since he was elected to Congress in November 2016, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., twice spoke at events hosted by a man described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black movements.”
Mast, running for re-election in a race the Cook Political Report has labeled as “Leans Republican,” spoke in 2016 and 2017 at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Restoration Weekend conference, which annually draws a lineup of prominent far-right and anti-Islam speakers.
Right Wing Watch noted some of the far-right speakers at the conferences in recent years: Dinesh D’Souza, Pamela Geller, Sebastian Gorka, Laura Loomer, Gavin McInnes and Andrew Torba, the owner of Gab, a social-media platform frequented by white supremacists.
Horowitz has a long history of racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric himself.
He said “Black Africans enslaved black Africans” while “America freed them,” said the term “white skin privilege…takes away the efforts and achievements of whites and teaches black kids that the system is rigged against them,” said former President Barack Obama was a Muslim, said the “only serious race war” was against whites and said African-Americans’ “demands for special treatment” were “only necessary because some blacks can’t seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others.”
The Washington Post reported on Sept. 9 that former Rep. Ron DeSantis, now the GOP nominee for Florida governor, spoke at the events four times between 2013 and 2017.
DeSantis’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Fusick, told The Post that he was not responsible for the other speakers at the events, saying he does not “buy into this ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ notion that he is responsible for the views and speeches of others.”
Mast, an Army veteran who lost both legs while in combat in Afghanistan who has made Israel one of his chief causes, told an Israeli newspaper that in 2014 he nearly got into a fight with “Arab” men who had been protesting Israel.
Mast told the Times of Israel he was in Boston with his then-pregnant wife in 2014 and two young children when men who had participated in a nearby “anti-Israel protest singled him out and started picking a fight,” the newspaper reported in 2016.
Mast said “Arab” men identified him as an Army veteran and, according to the paper, he assumed an “automatic defensive stance he took around these Middle Easterners as a result of his military experiences might also have attracted their attention.”