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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Wednesday that he does not plan to return any of the $3 million he received from a group whose leader recently hosted white supremacist Nick Fuentes.
Patrick’s statement follows a Sunday report by the Texas Tribune showing that Jonathan Stickland, the president of Defend Texas Liberty and a former lawmaker from Bedford, hosted Fuentes on Friday at the offices of a consulting firm, Pale Horse Strategies, that Stickland also owns. Defend Texas Liberty is a major donor to Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and other Republicans, and is funded primarily by two far-right West Texas oil billionaires, Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks.
Patrick said Wednesday that he spoke to Dunn, who “told me unequivocally that it was a serious blunder” for Stickland to meet with Fuentes, and assured him that the political action committee would have no “future contact” with the well-known white supremacist and Adolf Hitler admirer.
Dunn “stated emphatically that everyone at the PAC understands that mistakes were made and are being corrected,” Patrick said. “I accept Mr. Dunn at his word. I know him to be a man of integrity and an avid and staunch supporter of Israel.”
Patrick then explained that he would not return the PAC’s contribution because there were “no hints of any links to any antisemitic organizations or other hate groups” when he accepted it. He then blamed the blowback from the meeting on House Speaker Dade Phelan, claiming he had orchestrated a “smear campaign.”
Phelan's chief of staff Enrique Marquez responded on social media: "Mismatching socks is a 'blunder,'" he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Meeting with a pro-rape, pro-Taliban, pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic, Holocaust denier like Nick Fuentes for 6.5 (hours) is NOT a blunder."
Fuentes has frequently praised Hitler and questioned if the Holocaust happened. He has called for “holy war” against Jews, said he wants the United States under authoritarian, "Catholic Taliban rule" and fantasized about marrying a 16-year-old when he is older because that’s “right when the milk is good." He has said that he would beat a "disrespectful" woman so hard that she would collapse like a building on Sept. 11, 2001. And he has routinely pushed conspiracy theories that claim there is an intentional, Jewish-driven effort to replace white people through immigration, interracial marriage and the LGBTQ+ community.
“All I want is revenge against my enemies and a total Aryan victory,” Fuentes said last year.
Other Republicans said Wednesday that they are donating the group’s donations following the Tribune’s revelations, which have set off a firestorm in Texas politics this week.
In a statement, Frisco Rep. Jared Patterson said that he has given $2,500 to a pro-Israel charity, to account for the in-kind contribution of the same value he received from Stickland.
“I was appalled to learn Defend Texas Liberty PAC hosted a Nazi sympathizer and Holocaust denier for six hours,” Patterson said in a statement. “I could not rest until I washed my campaign from the stain of this organization and its leader.”
In his statement, Patterson said he was surprised that other conservatives — including Reps. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, Steve Toth, R-Woodlands, Brian Harrison, R-Midlothian, and Nate Schatzline, R-Fort Worth — have “either outright refused or don’t appear willing to distance themselves from” Defend Texas Liberty. Those members have released statements denouncing Fuentes or antisemitism, but were silent on Defend Texas Liberty and Stickland.
Rep. Stan Kitzman, R-Pattison, also said Wednesday that he is returning money from Defend Texas Liberty. Citing Fuentes’ visit — as well as the Tribune’s August reporting on Defend Texas Liberty’s ties to a company that pays influencers for undisclosed promotional work — Kitzman said he will donate the $5,000 he received from the PAC to local charities, including two Jewish groups.
“While I have no intention of labeling the members of Defend Texas Liberty as antisemites or racists, their decision to engage with someone like Nick Fuentes is a step too far,” Kitzman said in a statement. “I respectfully urge the leadership of this PAC to reflect upon their choice to associate with such individuals and consider aligning themselves with more principled allies.”
Other conservative lawmakers have pushed back against criticisms of Defend Texas Liberty. On social media this week, Toth accused Patterson of “pandering” to progressives through his statements on Fuentes. After a Houston-area activist noted that Fuentes has said white people are in a “holy war” against Jews and “will make them die,” Toth responded by calling her a “typical liberal liar.”
“Every time Republicans panders [sic] and apologize to progressive Democrats on issues of race they show the world how little backbone they actually have,” Toth also said.
Paxton has not sought to distance himself from Fuentes or the PAC either. The attorney general has not responded to repeated requests for comment or released a statement this week about Defend Texas Liberty. Over the course of his career, Paxton has received nearly twice as much in donations from the Dunn and Wilks families than he has from his second-largest donor, Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, which condemned Fuentes on Monday
The disavowals by Kitzman and Patterson — the latter of whom was ranked as the state’s most conservative lawmaker this year based on an analysis of his legislative votes — are the latest fallout after the Tribune published photos on Sunday of Fuentes at the offices of Pale Horse Strategies, a consulting firm for right-wing candidates that is also owned by Stickland.
His appearance — which comes as antisemitic and racist violence skyrockets in Texas and nationally — has set off a firestorm that has further escalated an ongoing civil war in the Texas GOP.
Citing Hamas’ recent attacks on Israel, House Speaker Dade Phelan said Monday that fellow Republicans should redirect any money they received from Defend Texas Liberty to pro-Israel charities. Soon after, 60 members of the Texas House Republican Caucus released a similar statement.
Patrick — who took $3 million from Defend Texas Liberty earlier this year — responded forcefully, accusing Phelan of politicizing Hamas’ attack, calling for him to step down and condemning Fuentes — but not Stickland or Defend Texas Liberty. Other major beneficiaries of the PAC followed suit throughout Monday, and have still yet to say whether they will cut ties with the deep-pocketed Defend Texas Liberty, Stickland or his West Texas funders.
Fuentes' relationship with Republicans meanwhile continues to make headlines. On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked by CNN’s John Berman “how he feels about Republicans associating with” Fuentes, as former President Donald Trump did at Mar-a-Lago last year.
“I would not do that,” responded DeSantis, whose campaign fired a Fuentes follower earlier this year after it was revealed that he had made and then shared a pro-DeSantis video that featured Nazi symbols.
Also on Wednesday, members with the activist group Indivisible Houston protested outside of a radio station in Houston that often hosts Patrick.
“Dan G. Patrick takes Nazi cash,” read one of their banners.
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.