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Texas GOP executive committee rejects proposed ban on associating with Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers

By Robert Downen, The Texas Tribune

Texas GOP executive committee rejects proposed ban on associating with Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Two months after a prominent conservative activist and fundraiser was caught hosting white supremacist Nick Fuentes, leaders of the Republican Party of Texas voted against barring the party from associating with Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers.

In a 32-29 vote on Saturday, members of the Texas GOP’s executive committee stripped a pro-Israel resolution of a clause that would have included the ban— delivering a major blow to a faction that has called for the party to confront its ties to groups that have recently employed, elevated or associated with outspoken white supremacists or antisemitic figures.

In October, The Texas Tribune published photos of Fuentes, an avowed admirer of Adolf Hitler who has called for a “holy war” against Jews, entering and leaving the offices of Pale Horse Strategies, a consulting firm for far-right candidates and movements. Pale Horse Strategies is owned by Jonathan Stickland, a former state representative and at the time the leader of a political action committee, Defend Texas Liberty, that two West Texas oil billionaires have used to fund right-wing movements, candidates and politicians in the state — including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Texas GOP, was also seen entering the Pale Horse offices while Fuentes was inside for nearly 7 hours He denied participating, however, saying he was visiting with someone else at the time and didn’t know Fuentes was there.

Defend Texas Liberty has not publicly commented on the scandal, save for a two-sentence statement condemning Fuentes’ “incendiary” views. Nor has it made clear what role Stickland has at Defend Texas Liberty, which quietly updated its website to reflect that he was no longer its president in October.

Tim Dunn, one of the two West Texas oil billionaires who funds Defend Texas Liberty, confirmed the meeting between Fuentes and Stickland and called it a “serious blunder,” according to a statement from Patrick.

In response to the scandal — as well as subsequent reporting from the Tribune that detailed other links between Defend Texas Liberty and white supremacists — nearly half of the Texas GOP’s executive committee had called for the party to cut ties with Defend Texas Liberty and groups it funds until Stickland was removed from any position of power, and a full explanation for the Fuentes meeting was given.

The proposed demands were significantly watered down ahead of the party’s quarterly meeting this weekend. Rather than calling for a break from Defend Texas Liberty, the faction proposed general language that would have barred associations with individuals or groups “known to espouse or tolerate antisemitism, pro-Nazi sympathies or Holocaust denial.”

But even that general statement was not enough to sway a majority of the executive committee. In at-times tense debate on Saturday, members argued that words like “tolerate” or “antisemitism” were too vague or subjective, and could create future problems for the party, its leaders and candidates.

“It could put you on a slippery slope,” said committee member Dan Tully.

Supporters of the language disagreed. They noted that the language was already a compromise, didn’t specifically name any group or individual and would lend credence to the Texas GOP’s stances in support of Israel.

“To take it out sends a very disturbing message,” said Rolando Garcia, a Houston-based committee member who drafted the language. “We’re not specifying any individual or association. This is simply a statement of principle.“

Other committee members questioned how their colleagues could find words like “antisemitism” too vague, despite frequently lobbing it and other terms at their political opponents.

“I just don’t understand how people who routinely refer to others as leftists, liberals, communists, socialists and RINOs (‘Republicans in Name Only’) don’t have the discernment to define what a Nazi is,” committee member Morgan Cisneros Graham told the Tribune after the vote.

This story will be updated.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/12/02/texas-gop-antisemitism-resolution/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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