A Minnesota congressman on Tuesday said those aligned with Black Lives Matter in protest of police brutality are “at war” with “western culture” — language that advocacy groups note has long been used to promote white nationalism.
Rep. Jim Hagedorn, a Republican, made the comment on Facebook in response to a news article about controversial activist Shaun King, who earlier this week said that murals and statues that depict Jesus as white should be torn down. Numerous Confederate monuments have fallen in recent days, both at the hands of protesters and under orders from local officials.
"The Democrat 'Black Lives Matter' Party, along with armies of rioters, are at war with our country, our beliefs and western culture," Hagedorn wrote Tuesday. "Their radical movement is orchestrated and growing. We must never let them take power. We must stand up and defend our county, our nation's identity, our Judeo-Christian values and our American way of life."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which documents the language of hate groups, has noted that "western culture" and similar terms have frequently been weaponized to peddle white nationalist ideology.
Tuesday evening, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., tweeted a news article about Hagedorn's comments, which notes that the lawmaker has a history of discriminatory comments and has previously spoken out against protests spurred by the killing of George Floyd.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Hagedorn focused in on King's musings about statues and murals that depict Jesus. He did not address the growing chorus of Americans who support the Black Lives Matter movement and want to see an end to racial injustice.
"The notion that statues and images of Jesus Christ somehow represent white supremacy and should be destroyed is ludicrous and represent a growing intolerant movement on the left to silence any voices that do not align with their radical secular views," Hagedorn said.
Also on Tuesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., addressed a crowd of young conservatives in Phoenix, where he decried calls to defund police agencies and expressed dismay over the actions of some protesters.
"You know these riots that are going on, attacking our monuments and our history, this is not political speech," Gaetz said, speaking at a 'Students for Trump' event. "It's not political speech when you throw a cinder block through a Nike store and walk out with Air Jordans."
He added: "This is not about violence. It's not even about race. They want to replace and destroy our great nation."
Gaetz touched on a number of topics during his monologue, also asserting that white privilege and male privilege are "racist terms."
"I reject the notion of white privilege or black privilege or any other type of privilege," he said. "We are all unified in one American privilege that we should be proud of, and fight for everything we have."
Gaetz's comments come after he appeared Thursday on Fox News with his Cuban-born teenage son named Nestor, who Gaetz says has lived with him since immigrating from Cuba at age 12. Earlier that day, Gaetz became angry when Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who is black, suggested white lawmakers in the room couldn't understand what it was like to be a father to a black child.
“I’ve raised Nestor to believe that in our family we treat everyone equally. It doesn’t matter what their background is, what their race is,” Gaetz said on Fox News. “We treat every American the same and with respect.”