A dozen Arizona GOP lawmakers follow at least 1 far-right Facebook group

 A new report identified 875 state legislators nationwide who have joined at least one far-right Facebook group. The lawmakers, who are almost all Republicans, account for nearly 22% of all GOP legislators in America. /Photo by Stephanie Keith | Getty Images

BY KIRA LERNER | Arizona Mirror

 A new report identified 875 state legislators nationwide who have joined at least one far-right Facebook group. The lawmakers, who are almost all Republicans, account for nearly 22% of all GOP legislators in America. Photo by Stephanie Keith | Getty Images

More than 1 in 5 Republican state lawmakers across the country have joined at least one far-right Facebook group, according to a new report. In Arizona, 12 have done so — about 25% of the state’s GOP legislators.

Together the lawmakers sponsored 963 bills during the most recent legislative sessions, said the group that wrote the report, which describes the far-right efforts as anti-human rights.

The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a think tank that defends democracy and human rights, identified 875 lawmakers who have joined at least one of 789 Facebook groups, including white nationalist groups, groups tied to QAnon, groups that spout conspiracy theories about COVID-19, and others that promote former president Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election.

The institute’s report, titled Breaching the Mainstream, lists all of the legislators identified as being part of far-right Facebook groups and detailed their legislative impact. 

“We knew we had a problem on our hands, but we hadn’t been able to quantify the depths of it,” said Devin Burghart, president and executive director of the institute. “This was a first attempt on our part to wrap our heads around it, and it was pretty striking in terms of the various pipelines that have opened up to pump disinformation and far-right ideas into legislatures.”

One of the state legislators profiled by IREHR was Arizona state Sen. Kelly Townsend, a Republican from Apache Junction who was a tea party leader before being elected to the legislature in 2012. Townsend, the researchers wrote, has “moved from anti-abortion and Tea Party politics to far-right paramilitary militia groups and efforts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution in the far-right’s image.”

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