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Senate launching investigation into Wendy Rogers' post on Buffalo shooting

Posted at 6:48 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 21:48:05-04

Monday the Arizona State Senate took a vote on whether to expel Senator Wendy Rogers.

The Republican Senator representing northern Arizona was not expelled, because the motion failed to get a two-thirds majority.

However, there was bipartisan support to proceed with an ethics committee investigation into Rogers' social media post, where she seemed to imply the racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo.. was a 'false flag' event involving the federal government.

Hours after the Buffalo shooting, Rogers posted: "Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo."

The message was shared on the fringe social media site, Gab, and the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

"She knows that's where these views are going to be amplified and applauded," said Jessica Reaves with the ADL's Center on Extremism.

On Monday, as Arizona politicians debated Rogers' fate on the Senate floor, many expressed confusion about what the post even meant.

Extremist experts, though, say Rogers' message is not a new one on the internet, where far-right conspiracy theorists attempt to quickly dismiss a racially motivated mass shooting.

"She's advancing this extremist idea that this was a false flag, that this attack was actually perpetrated by the federal government as some sort of mechanism to advance gun control measures or somehow advance the "Democratic Party's agenda," explained Reaves.

"This is something that we see frequently from extremist corners after these kinds of attacks," she continued. "We see people dismissing it, people saying it was fake, you know, that these are all crisis actors. And it's both incredibly disturbing and also so insulting to the memory of the people who were murdered."

Rogers' post on Gab solicited dozens of comments from people expressing skepticism about the shooting or espousing openly racist views.

"White actors are the ones laying on the pavement playing dead," wrote one commenter who had an openly white supremacist username and racist profile picture.

"This reeks of the federal government!" commented another person, who went on for a paragraph about how the horrific mass shooting was 'staged' and a 'gun grab.'

"I think it's disgusting," said Matt Browning, a retired Mesa undercover cop, who spent decades infiltrating Neo-Nazi groups. "They're basically mocking what happened...and trying to brush off that it's not a big deal."

The Buffalo shooting suspect also wrote in his manifesto about the Christchurch mosque shootings and the racist ideology called 'replacement theory.'

"It's this racist conspiracy theory that a greater force is driving this replacement of white people by non-white immigrants," said Reaves. "It's meant to speak to white people's fear of being 'replaced.'"

While the ideology is mentioned in explicitly racist terms in the accused killer's manifesto, experts say it has become more mainstream in certain politicians' immigration rhetoric.

Rogers, for one, has tweeted "We are being replaced and invaded."

Rogers was just censured by her Senate colleagues back in March after she made multiple comments, on-air and online, calling for violence and addressing White Nationalist Nick Fuentes' conference.

ABC15 reached out to Senator Wendy Rogers for an interview and with specific questions about what she meant by her post. She did not respond but released the following statement late Monday:

"Sadly, my comment was taken completely out of context and became a false narrative that's now the focal point of a firestorm created by certain race-obsessed members of the media. Unfortunately, our Democrat members of the Senate are now turning this issue into a political tool and are continuing to perpetuate this erroneous message in an effort to foment division within our party. Let me be very clear: I do not condone violent crime or racism. My heart breaks for those who lost their lives as well as for their families in this weekend's shooting in Buffalo, New York. I pray justice is brought to the perpetrator. The person responsible for this heinous crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I denounce this tragic act as well as any and all other violent crimes that are spreading into communities across our country. I'm grateful to our Republican Leadership Team for fighting to give me due process in this matter, and I am certain that once the facts have been analyzed, I will be vindicated."

Democrats were outraged Monday, after their vote to expel Rogers was unsuccessful.

ADP Chairwoman Raquel Terán and ADLCC Chairwoman Rebecca Rios released the following statement:

"The behavior of Wendy is downright abhorrent, and the fact that she is able to remain an elected official and use her platform to incite violence is unacceptable. Arizona families will not be safe so long as people like Wendy remain in office. The failure of the GOP, Senate President Fann, and Governor Ducey to hold her accountable and take action against her shows that their loyalties lie not with Arizonans, but with violent extremists. Arizona Democrats will not sit idly by and be complacent as Wendy continues to endanger the lives of Arizonans and Americans. Hate has no place in Arizona, and Wendy Rogers has no place in our State Senate."