On Thursday, far-right activist Lauren Witzke issued an apology that could only be described as groveling; in fact, she described it as such.
“I feel like I’ve been going through—it’s almost like a breakup. I wanted to say publicly how sorry I am,” Witzke said on her livestream.
“It’s been a rough last few days. I’ve been crying like a woman. And of course, I did what any rational adult would do and called Mommy Malkin to help me. So like I said, this is a groveling session, I have to pay my penance where penance is due, apologies where they are well deserved, and that’s why I am doing this stream,” Witzke said. “I respect our great and merciful leader, who has forgiven me by the way.”
Lauren Witzke works (worked?) for Stew Peters, who criticized Marjorie Taylor Greene during his speech at AFPAC after MTG spoke. Witkze just posted a "groveling session" video begging Groypers to forgive her for possibly disrespecting "our great and merciful leader" Nick Fuentes. pic.twitter.com/V8ZjN69xyd
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) March 3, 2022
That “great and merciful leader” is Nick Fuentes, the white nationalist who organized the America First Political Action Conference held last week in Orlando, Florida. So why was Witzke, who was the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Delaware in 2020, apologizing to Fuentes?
Witzke had defended her boss, the far-right conspiracy theorist Stew Peters, who had criticized Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Fuentes and his self-described army of “Groypers” defended Greene—who spoke at AFPAC and whose initials they chanted during her speech—in the only way they knew how: with harassment of her critics.
The unfolding drama among the far-right activists who attended AFPAC offers a glimpse into Fuentes’ and his white nationalist America First movement’s commitment to bring their message into the mainstream GOP discourse—and to make dissenting voices fall in line.
Witzke had made the mistake of defending her boss. But Peters, who hosts “The Stew Peters Show,” is not getting off easy either.
After Greene gave her opening speech in which she spoke about Christian nationalism and attacked transgender people, a slew of other extremist speakers followed, including Vincent James, who promotes white nationalism on his livestream, and Peters.
Peters said on his show Monday that he was unaware that Greene was the surprise mystery speaker. When one of his producers, presumably Witzke, asked whether they should change his speech in which he had planned to criticize Greene (as he has done in the past), Peters said he decided to go ahead with his speech as planned.
At the AFPAC podium, Peters blasted Greene, calling her a “faker.” He criticized her as perpetuating the “useless own-the-libs conservatism” and accused her of “embracing race-based reparations to own the libs”—”disgusting!” he added. (Later in the speech, he also declared that Dr. Anthony Fauci should be “hanging by the end of a noose somewhere” and that Georgia congressional candidate Vernon Jones “belongs in a prison cell, actually, truthfully, he probably belongs in an electric chair.”)
As the evening wound down, Fuentes made a point of thanking Greene for her appearance. “God bless Marjorie Taylor Greene, you have no idea what a big deal it was for her to come out and do that,” Fuentes said, adding that it was easy to talk and yell but that it was hard work to bring the fight to Congress.
Of course, the next day, Greene spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference and told reporters that she didn’t know Nick Fuentes or his views and that she was only there to speak to “young conservatives.”
Peters was livid. “It is unsurprising to see liar and fraud Marjorie Taylor Greene so quickly stab Nick Fuentes in the stomach mere hours after pretending to fawn all over his fast-growing movement,” he told The Daily Beast’s Zachary Petrizzo.
But instead of appreciating the attack on Greene, Fuentes’ America First crowd lashed out at Peters, calling him a “boomer.”
“Very disappointing that Stew Peters— a former ‘rapper’ and criminal is trying so hard to sabotage a perfect night by running to Zach Petrizzo at the Daily Beast to attack one of our featured speakers. He was disrespectful to our staff, looked like a slob, and stormed out of the conference after his speech,” Fuentes wrote on Telegram. (If you’re wondering what his rapping sounded like, give this a listen.) “And for people who think he’s just ‘too hardcore’ or whatever, he also tried to get me to promise to stop saying the n-word before even agreeing to attend the conference lol. Good riddance loser.”
In a broadcast Monday, Peters appeared bewildered by what took place. He explained why he attacked Greene—she’s “fake”—claimed “we always promise to give you the unvarnished truth,” and recounted the so-called “Groyper Wars” of 2019 in which Nick Fuentes and the “Groypers” attacked Charlie Kirk, influencing him to take more extreme positions. That’s what he was trying to do, Peters said, adding, “Her speech was lame, too.”
Peters brought on his guest Neil Kumar, a candidate for Congress in Arkansas who has peddled white nationalism, whom Peters looked to for reassurance. Kumar delivered, accusing Fuentes and the “Groypers” of being sellouts for chasing clout by “simping for this serial adulterer who wears hot pants everywhere she goes. Marjorie is a pathological liar and a total fraud.”
Peters went on to take a softer tone, hoping only that the “Groypers” would find their way back.
The Groypers’ attacks on the far-right who disagree with them wasn’t limited to Peters and Witzke. They lashed out at Joe Kent, an extreme MAGA congressional candidate in Washington state whom Fuentes had endorsed last year, for disavowing Fuentes Thursday. That harassment continued even after Kent stood by his comments that Fuentes should not have been placed on a no-fly list. On Thursday night, Fuentes spent his livestream trashing Kent.
These attacks could be seen as far-right actors following the whim of their leader who operates his movement like a cult and will suffer no criticism without striking back twice as hard. But it is also clear that Fuentes has already decided that this is the moment for the movement to partner with extreme politicians whose ideology may not directly align with his in order to bring white nationalism to more mainstream Republican audiences.
While Greene’s politics lie, as Rolling Stone put it, “at the area of greatest overlap between ‘bigotry’ and ‘self-promotion,’” her speech at AFPAC didn’t dip into white nationalism. Instead, it focused on transphobia and Christian nationalism—takes that anyone sensible would find deeply troublesome but which the “Groypers” consider child’s play.
In a livestream Monday, Vincent James, a close ally of Fuentes, explained why what she said in her speech didn’t matter.
“We are breaking through this Overton Window, and speakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene… it doesn’t matter what they say. You have to really think about the end game here,” James said. “It’s about gaining legitimacy.”
“It’s about mainstreaming our message,” James added.
And while Kent, Peters, and Witzke may be useful to Fuentes and his movement, they’re nowhere near as valuable as Greene in spreading their message to a broader audience.
Back on Witzke’s livestream—where the live chat included takes like “Never trust a femoid” and incessant use of the N-word—Witzke thanked Fuentes for forgiving her.
“Thanks, Nick, for forgiving me,” she said. “I’m glad I’m not getting the Joe Kent treatment right now because God knows, I guess I deserved it.”