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White supremacist and antisemitic leader Nick Fuentes has been thrust into the state political spotlight after he was hosted by the president of an influential group that has donated millions of dollars to top Texas Republican officials.
On Sunday, The Texas Tribune published photos of Fuentes at the headquarters of Pale Horse Strategies, where he spent nearly 7 hours on Friday. Pale Horse is owned by Jonathan Stickland, a former state representative who also leads Defend Texas Liberty — a political action committee that two West Texas oil billionaires have used to give millions of dollars to right-wing candidates, including Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
The meeting — which has set off a firestorm at the Texas Capitol this week — is Fuentes’ most high-profile, known rendezvous since he dined with former President Donald Trump last year, drawing widespread condemnation. His appearance in Texas comes as antisemitic and racist violence continues to skyrocket in the state and nationally.
Here’s what to know about Fuentes:
Fuentes, 25, often praises Adolf Hitler and questions whether the Holocaust happened. He has called for a “holy war” against Jews and compared the 6 million killed by the Nazis to cookies being baked in an oven. He wants the U.S. government under authoritarian, “Catholic Taliban rule,” and has been vocal about his disdain for women, Muslims, the LGBTQ+ community and others.
"All I want is revenge against my enemies and a total Aryan victory,” Fuentes said last year.
He was born in the Chicago suburbs in 1998. As a freshman at Boston University, Fuentes traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia to attend the “Unite the Right” rally, a meeting of violent hate groups, white nationalists and neo-Nazis that ended with the murder of one counterprotester and injuries to countless others.
Fuentes dropped out of college after the rally and ramped up his presence on YouTube, often coating his most extreme views in humor and satire — a term called “irony poisoning” that is often employed by online extremists because it allows them to claim they were joking when they are criticized for their rhetoric. Fuentes also linked up with a well-known neo-Nazi and former Identity Evropa leader Patrick Casey to deploy followers to Republican events, where they believed they could recruit and push softened versions of their most extreme views.
For years, Fuentes’ followers — nicknamed “groypers” after a cartoon frog that has become a meme in far-right online communities — were fixtures at events held by groups such as Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA, which they would frequently accuse of not being “pro-white” enough. “Groypers” would often try to access microphones during Q&A sessions in order to attack Kirk, a prominent conservative activist who has helped recruit younger voters to the GOP, from the right on issues like immigration or his support for Israel.
Fuentes has fantasized about marrying a 16-year-old when he is older because that’s “right when the milk is good,” and he is a self-described “proud incel” who reportedly prohibits his followers from masturbating or having sex — among other directives that former members have described as cultish. “Incel” is shorthand for “involuntarily celibate,” and there is a long history of “incels” latching onto white supremacist ideologies that provide them someone, often Jews, to blame for their lack of romantic success. The neo-Nazi gunman who killed eight people at an Allen shopping mall this year was also an “incel.”
Fuentes became more prominent in mainstream media during the 2020 presidential election, and was a key figure in the “Stop the Steal” movement, often pairing his baseless claims about a stolen election with white supremacist conspiracy theories that claim there is an intentional, Jewish-driven effort to replace white people through immigration, interracial marriage and the LGTBQ+ community. Two days before the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, Fuentes suggested killing legislators who were unwilling to overturn the election results; on the day of the riot, he told his followers that they “must be prepared” to “take this country back by force.”
Despite his well-documented extremism and antisemitism, Fuentes’ annual conference has been attended by Republican officials including U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona. At his 2022 “America First” conference — which included speeches by Gosar and Greene — Fuentes castigated those who have compared Russian leader Vladimir Putin to Hitler “as if that wasn’t a good thing.”
In November 2022, Fuentes dined at Mar-a-Lago with Trump and Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, who was embroiled over a spate of antisemitic comments he had recently made. Trump later said that he had no idea who Fuentes was at the time, while other Republican Party leaders condemned the meeting and Fuentes.
Fuentes’ acolytes have also been involved in politics: In July, one of his followers was fired from the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after it was revealed that he created and then shared a pro-DeSantis video that featured a Nazi symbol. Gosar’s office has also reportedly employed Fuentes followers and, in August, it was reported that Greene’s campaign paid $55,000 to a consultant and Fuentes’ collaborator.
Other Fuentes followers have made their homes in Texas: Earlier this year, Ella Maulding moved from Mississippi to Fort Worth to work as a social media coordinator for Pale Horse Strategies. Maulding has posted photos with Fuentes in which she praised him as ”the greatest civil rights leader in history,” and her social media is replete with references to “white genocide” — a foundational ideology for neo-Nazi and other violent extremist movements.
Maulding was spotted by the Tribune at the Friday meeting with Fuentes, and spent some time outside recording a video for Texans for Strong Borders in which she called on state lawmakers to crack down on immigration when they meet for a special legislative session beginning Monday. Chris Russo, the founder of Texans for Strong Borders, was seen driving Fuentes to the Friday meeting at Pale Horse Strategies.
Campaign finance records show that last year, Pale Horse Strategies received more than $828,000 for consulting and contractor services from Defend Texas Liberty, which has given nearly $15 million since 2021 to right-wing candidates. Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington and Bryan Slaton, who was ousted from the Texas House in May after House investigators found that he gave alcohol to a 19-year-old aide and then had sex with her, have received substantial funding from Defend Texas Liberty.
The PAC is also a major backer to Paxton, as are the two oil billionaires — Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks — who fund Defend Texas Liberty.
Over his political career, Paxton has received nearly twice as much in donations from Dunn and the Wilks brothers than he has from his second-largest donor, Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Paxton had also received more money from the trio of billionaires than any other state politician — until this summer when Patrick received $3 million from the group before presiding over Paxton’s impeachment trial and acquittal in the Texas Senate.
Disclosure: Texans for Lawsuit Reform has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.