Darrell Ehrlick

(Daily Montanan) Congressman Matt Rosendale, a Republican who represents a wide swath of Montana, is coming under fire for posing for a photo with a group of white nationalists, who claim they met with him recently while visiting the Capitol in Washington D.C.

Rosendale’s office denies the meeting, and explains that the group simply asked for their photo with him outside the Capitol and he obliged. He said he did not know who they were or their background.

The photo appeared on Friday on a Telegram account, controlled by prominent white nationalist Greyson Arnold, and shows four other men standing by Rosendale. The group includes another well-known white supremacist Ryan Sanchez.

Both Arnold and Sanchez have posted recently about being in Washington D.C., at the invitation of a member of Congress, but have not said who invited them. And while the group may not have been known to Rosendale, they are well known to other members of Congress and the Republican Party.

Arnold is a white nationalist, pro-Nazi blogger who runs the “Pure Politics” channel, a site for white supremacists and neo-Nazis, which includes memes praising Nazis as the “pure race” and lamenting the American victory in World War II.

“I absolutely condemn and have zero tolerance for hate groups, hate speech and violence,” Rosendale said in a statement sent via email. “I did not take a meeting with these individuals. I was asked for a photo while walking between hearings, accommodating as I do for all photo requests, and was not aware of the individuals’ identity or affiliation with these hate groups that stand in stark contrast to my personal beliefs.”

Arnold was also employed briefly by the Washington state GOP. The Daily Beast confirmed that Arnold had been part of the party’s payroll, but was terminated after the Republicans learned of his involvement in the far-right politics, which includes advocating for shooting refugees, killing undocumented immigrants, and saying that Adolf Hitler was “a complicated historical figure which many people misunderstand.”

It isn’t the first time Arnold has been photographed with a high-profile politician.

Last year, he was photographed alongside Arizona Republican Chairwoman Kelli Ward at an event put on by the Republicans for National Renewal and co-hosted by a group called the American Populist Union. That event had ties to Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group. Attendees of the meeting included former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari, Lake, former Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, and Congress members Mark Finchem and Paul Gosar.

The American Populist Union is a “groyper” group that, in part, troll conservatives that they feel are not extreme enough, or post white nationalist content.

Ryan Sanchez from one of his online podcasts.
Ryan Sanchez from one of his online podcasts.

Sanchez who goes by “Culture War Criminal” and lives in California, is part of a neo-Nazi “fight club” and is associated with other far-right networks with links to Nick Fuentes, who himself made national news when the far-right extremist had dinner with former President Donald J. Trump.

Sanchez also made some news as he toppled an art installation known as part of the “Monolith” series, which appeared around the world and were originally thought to be put in remote locations by extraterrestrial activity. Sanchez toppled one of the monoliths and replaced it with a cross while filming the deed, and saying, ““Christ is king in this country. We don’t want illegal aliens from Mexico or outer space,” according to the website Left Coast Right watch.

Rosendale’s office said none of the staff who were with Rosendale knew the identities of the men, either.

Even members of Rosendale’s staff have drawn some scrutiny. Grace Davis, communications director for Rosendale, lists working for the organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, which is considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group because of that organization’s public stances against the LGBTQ community, including calling for the sterilization of transgender people.

The Daily Montanan reached out to Davis on Monday about Rosendale’s photo opportunity and her past employment. However, she did not answer questions about her own experience in the reply.

–Arizona Mirror Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy contributed to this report.